The Drops We Drink

Water Testing - Picture by Mimansha Joshi '14

Besides being artificially inexpensive, water is the most important element to life on the planet. Using it wisely is a no brainer. Lynchburg receives its fresh water supply from the Pedlar Reservoir, a man-made lake located in the middle of the George Washington National Forest; the water quality coming from the reservoir is excellent. But anytime Lynchburg enters a drought period and the level of the reservoir becomes critically low, the fresh water supply for the city is switched to the James River, which is of much lower quality, resulting in more complex and costly chemical water treatment.

In an effort to drastically improve the James River and Chesapeake Bay water quality, the City of Lynchburg started a decade -long sewage water diversion. In years past, sewage water and storm water were being transported in the same pipe system. As the city grew, the maximum flow capacity was reached, and anytime a big storm passed over Lynchburg, sewage overflow occurred, polluting adjacent streams, the James, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. The multi-million dollar project created many jobs and will ensure safer rivers and lower water treatment costs for the city in the long term.

Randolph College has participated in water diversion efforts by creating several rain gardens behind some of the biggest buildings on campus. Any rainwater collected on the college buildings' roofs gets collected in basins filled with water-loving plants that quickly suck up and evapotranspirate rain water. The result is straightforward: less water runoff, less erosion, and less polluted or nutrient-rich water reach the nearby creeks and the James River. Ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay benefits from reduced eutrophication levels, and its wildlife is safeguarded along with the livelihoods of thousands of small fishermen up and down the Virginia coast. In addition to the rain gardens, Randolph College has instituted water conservation measures.