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HILLSVILLE — When the water table is being depleted, what are large subdivisions going to do for a supply in the future, a Virginia Health Department official asked the new Carroll Public Service Authority at its inaugural meeting Monday.
Greg Gibson, who works for the health department on wells and septic systems for new construction, said water even in deep wells has been ebbing.
In his 37 years with the health department, he’s seen a lot of growth and around 20,000 water and sewer systems as a part of the growth.
It’s getting to the point that water’s getting more and more scarce, yet Carroll County continues to develop.
Plans to create three subdivisions around Stoots Mountain motivated Gibson to bring his concerns to the Public Service Authority’s attention.
“A dire concern is water,” he said. “I work and see and deal with it every day.
“To have another 300-lot subdivision come into the county and try to depend solely on wells, I think, is something we need to look hard at.
“We’re having so much trouble with sufficient water, not necessarily quality — just having water.”
Over three years, from 2000 to 2003, programs that Gibson worked with sought to replace 490 water supplies that had dried up, he said.
Through the past 25 years, droughts have taken out the shallow wells and springs, and it’s now beginning to affect deeper wells, Gibson said.
It’s becoming a gamble to drill a well these days, he indicated. “You might as well go to Las Vegas and enjoy yourself as to try to drill a well.”
One person trying to develop land is going to pay about $12,000, whether he gets water or not, Gibson said.
He knows about one effort that sunk $42,000 into a water supply. Another time, he said, a driller dug 800 feet down, or maybe it was 1,000, and didn’t hit water.
People try to tie wells together and share water in some cases, he said.
“We definitely need water and sewer for all business areas, Fancy Gap, all the highways... that’s the only way we’re going to be able to bring our economy up.”
Much of Carroll County’s economy comes from its available real estate, Gibson noted. But the needed infrastructure and getting water and sewer keep getting more complicated.
People who drill on these hillsides will encounter lots of rock and shale and slopes, he said. It’s a trick to even get well-drilling machines on some of the spots.
Some people wanting to build could find they spent between $60,000 and $100,000 on a place to put a $250,000 house, yet they still may not have water, Gibson said. Several sites may need two or three wells to get water.
Gibson said it may come to a point where subdivision developers must make plans for their water supply before they get approved.
Private subdivisions like Cascade put together their own water system, and they kept it up, he said.
Others didn’t. Some lots in those subdivisions were designed for just septic and now people are trying to fit both a well and septic system on their land.
“We’re squeezing ourselves into a tight fix,” he said.
Another place where the lack of water could have an impact on the livability of land is around the Blue Ridge Parkway, Gibson said. Carroll could end up with a “high-dollar ghost town,” without some planning on how to get water to these developments.
County officials might want to think about asking the planning commission to require water for subdivisions before they go to market, he said. It’s too late after all the land in the county has been sold.
Authority member Wes Hurst asked if there are certain areas that are worse than others, and about the quality of water.
Gambetta water has iron, Laurel Fork has iron, lots of areas throughout Carroll County have iron, Gibson said. There’s low pH water. Quality varies throughout the county.
“I think the water situations are getting bad everywhere,” he said. “I think our water problems are pretty well widespread.”
Authority member Tom Littrell asked about the health of wells that supply the authority’s public water projects.
The quality of wells seems good, but he hasn’t heard about the flow, Gibson answered.
Wells have been mentioned as a possible source for a public water system in Fancy Gap, Littrell noted.
The water situation requires attention, Gibson summed up. “This is one thing we need to address as a whole.”
During later discussion, authority member Sam Dickson pointed out that new subdivisions need traffic studies, but he didn’t know how much consideration is given to the availability of water in the developments.
He moved to send a letter to the planning commission to express the authority’s concerns about large new subdivisions and water availability to meet the needs. He specified that “large” meant 100-lot developments or more.
“That may be something that needs to be added to our subdivision ordinance, or at least need to be considered when the planning commission approves these plats,” Dickson said.
The motion was seconded by Littrell and approved by the five authority members present.
David Hutchins was out of state for a funeral.
Dickson also indicated that maps can be made to illustrate where public water and sewer availability is.