Town Watches River's Flow

Published 4:29 pm Thursday, September 9, 2010

FARMVILLE – Town Council was briefed Wednesday night on the Appomattox River's flow, the volume of water affected by more than two weeks without rain, but not, according to officials, precariously so.

The Town depends on the river to supply its water treatment plant.

“It's still okay,” Town Manager Gerald Spates said during council's September meeting. “We have water going by.” The flow going by Farmville's water treatment plant was measured to be at a rate of 16 million gallons a day on Wednesday, Spates reported.

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“Hopefully, we'll get some rain this weekend,” the town manager said.

Town Council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon asked Spates when he considered diminished flow to have reached the critical stage and Spates replied, “when it gets down to around six million gallons a day.”

The flow was less than 1.5 million gallons a day during the drought of 2002.

Very little rain fell in June and July, creating drought situations across the state and greatly affecting streams and rivers, including the Appomattox.

The situation improved greatly last month, with 4.65 inches of rain measured at WFLO, the National Weather Service's Cooperative Observer for the area, which is half an inch above normal August rainfall.

But the subsequent two weeks without rain has seen yards, fields and flowing streams quickly show the effects, more sustained rain needed to continue the recovery from drought.

The operator of the Town's water treatment plant, Kathy Gagen, said Thursday that “we really haven't had a problem” with sufficient river flow this summer.

Spates also told The Herald on Thursday that the river has “been holding its own.”

In July, the river's lowest flow at the water plant was at rate of approximately 12.5 million gallons per day, Ms. Gagen said Thursday.

For the year, rainfall is four inches below normal, 25.57 inches, compared with the normal average of 29.57 inches through the month of August.

As council members reviewed a flow chart, Spates noted the daily fluctuations, when the river's flow decreases during the day and is replenished at night. “Your flow is going to fluctuate a lot at night, when it gets dark,” Spates said.

“At night the river regenerates itself because the trees,” the town manager explained, “release the water they've been absorbing during the day.”

The Town of Farmville has the back-up option of releasing water from Mottley Lake and allowing it to flow in the Appomattox River upstream. Other emergency options are also available.