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Protecting Waterways -- and Water Supply -- Ragged Mountain Reservoir Now at Capacity

Residents of Charlottesville and Albemarle County won’t have to worry about a drought draining the water supply anytime soon.  It took two years to fill and several years of planning, but now Ragged Mountain Reservoir has reached its capacity – and the rivers and streams around Charlottesville are protected, as well.   WMRA’s Brit Moorer reports.

A drought back in 2002 was the catalyst.

[sound of tap turning off]

BRIAN RICHTER: The community had to make some real sacrifices.  It wasn’t just having to stop watering your lawn or washing your car, but we had to go to measures like the restaurants were forced to stop using their dish washing machines so they had to go to paper plates, they had to stop using their bathrooms so they had to go to a port-potty out in the back.

Brian Richter is with the Global Water Program at the Nature Conservancy.  He says that’s when the community was forced to think of a way to make sure it never happened again.

RICHTER: Ultimately the solution that emerged was enlarging Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

A multi-million dollar project that would take years of planning, debate and even some push-back is finally complete.

TOM FREDERICK: So now people can go out and see the beautiful area with the expanded reservoir and recognize the security that we have the water that we need to survive future droughts.

Tom Frederick is executive director of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.  For this project, the authority worked with the Nature Conservancy’s Richter not just to secure the area’s water needs, but also to preserve local waterways.

RICHTER: The reservoir holds 1.5 billion gallons.

That’s enough to provide water for several months, even if there’s another drought. 

Which means people living in Charlottesville and Albemarle County won’t have to worry about eating on paper plates at restaurants anytime soon.

Most importantly, with the new reservoir expansion, the community wanted to make sure local rivers didn’t suffer.  And that’s why the Nature Conservancy got involved.

RICHTER: We wanted to find a solution that would help bring our local rivers back to life.

Finding that balance between securing a water supply and making sure the local rivers stay in good shape was tricky.

RICHTER: There’s a lot of water that gets diverted out of the Moormans River in particular but also out of the main part of the Rivanna river for our use in the city and the county, when we take too much water out of the river we can damage the health of the river. We can have an affect on the fish..

Now, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority will be able to adjust just how much water is released into local rivers and when to do so.

RWSA officials, and conservationists, hope that will protect the treasured water supply for people living in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and in turn preserve the landscape and recreational beauty that attract people to the area.