Most people know that heavy rains and snowmelt can negatively affect the water quality in a region’s rivers, streams and springs. Many people, however, are not aware that an earthquake — even one located thousands of miles away — can also disturb area water sources.
Weather-related and seismic events can cause turbidity, or cloudiness, in a local waterway, which can increase the rate of disease-causing pathogens. Since local waterways serve as source waters for public water systems such as WCSA, these utilities must meet stringent federal drinking water standards to ensure water quality for their customers. That means a public utility may sometimes have to temporarily close down a particular source until the increased turbidity settles out.
Such is the case with Reservation Spring, the main water source serving WCSA customers who reside in Taylors Valley, Damascus, Alvarado, Bethel and other areas along the Route 58 corridor. This artesian spring originates in Taylors Valley and flows by gravity to the Middle Fork Drinking Water Plant. Occasionally, when increased turbidity occurs due to weather-related or seismic events, WCSA temporarily shuts down the source. Water for the communities served by Reservation Spring is then supplied from alternative sources until the turbidity dissipates.
As the need for water increased along the Route 58 corridor, it was determined that Reservation Spring was not sufficient to meet the greater demand, and the spring was connected to WCSA’s main water system at the Middle Fork Drinking Water Plant in the 1990s to add capacity flowing to those communities. Since the water pressure at Middle Fork is higher than the Reservation Spring system, a pressure-reducing valve was installed when the connection was made.
“When water demand along the Route 58 corridor exceeds what the system can produce, the water storage tank near WCSA’s home office in Abingdon augments the supply,” says Robbie Cornett, general manager of WCSA. “However, because of the current system arrangement, pressure fluctuations occur for the customers in that area of Washington County. The pressure issues become even more pronounced when WCSA must temporarily shut down Reservation Spring and water must be hauled to Taylors Valley by tanker truck.”
A project that has been underway since last fall is intended to address these problems. Approximately 2,000 current WCSA customers will benefit from the Route 58 Corridor Water System Improvements Project.
The project’s improvements include greater water storage capacity in this portion of WCSA’s water system and an improved backup water supply source. The project will also address pressure fluctuations, as well as fluctuating fire flow capacities.
The project’s main component is a new water storage tank for this area of Washington County. The tank, which will be located less than a mile south of Damascus Middle School, will provide a stable hydraulic grade line to the water system, allowing for more consistent water pressure and enhanced fire flow. In addition, WCSA is replacing and adding water lines to the Denton Valley community and replacing lines on Drake Road in order to provide proper water flow. This project will also enable WCSA to provide bulk water sales to the neighboring Intermont Utility District, where approximately 112 residents in Sullivan County, Tennessee, will gain access to a safe and dependable supply of drinking water.
“We expect to complete this important project next summer,” Cornett says. “While we’ll still have to deal with turning Reservation Spring on and off from time to time and hauling water to Taylors Valley, the impact on our customers along the Route 58 corridor won’t be noticed like it is now. They will be able to enjoy an ample water supply and steady water pressure.”