Springs in Virginia

in 2019, Flow Alkaline Spring Water commercialized Seawright Springs in Augusta County as a source for bottled water
in 2019, Flow Alkaline Spring Water commercialized Seawright Springs in Augusta County as a source for bottled water
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

Springs are found where groundwater reaches the surface. Many are just tiny seeps, ephemeral spots that appear after rains when the water table if high and disappear when the zone of saturated ground drops in elevation. A few are large enough to become landmarks.

Bath County received its name after colonists developed the thermal springs located in the area. In the 1800's, before the introduction of air conditioning, wealthy Virginians spent a portion of the hot summer months touring resorts developed around springs in the mountains. Resorts without hot springs, such as Sweet Chalybeate Springs in Alleghany County, claimed health benefits associated with the high levels of iron and other minerals in their springs.

Sweet Chalybeate Springs operated as a resort from 1836-1918
Sweet Chalybeate Springs operated as a resort from 1836-1918
Source: Library of Congress, Sweet Chalybeate Springs, State Route 311, Sweet Chalybeate, Alleghany County, VA

Some springs have been developed as drinking water sources. Groundwater that has moved slowly through bedrock and sediments typically will be clear, since suspended sediment particles will have settled out. Spring water will also be attractively cool in the summer, matching the average temperature of the area below the frost line (approximately 56°).

Early settlers build spring houses with pools in which milk, butter, and cheese could be kept cool in the summertime. In urbanized areas many once-essential springs have been covered up and incorporated into stormwater systems, but others have been retained as historic sites.

Carlin Spring in Arlington County has been transformed, but still flows on the surface of the ground
Carlin Spring in Arlington County has been transformed, but still flows on the surface of the ground
Source: Arlington County, Slide 11 Historic Carlin Spring

Some springs have been improved with pipes channeling the water to the edge of a road or trail. The appearance of clear, filtered water does not make it safe to drink, however. Pollution comes from upstream in the watershed of a spring. Some pollution sources are natural. Wildlife do not use designated toilet area away from a spring's recharge area, and soils may include arsenic or radon-producing radioactive elements.

The most common source of pollution today is Giardia, a microscopic parasite that causes diarrhea. It has been carried into every watershed by infected humans or animals, and deposited in their feces.1

Spring water is still bottled and sold, though it must be treated first to meet Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. Bottled water may be sourced from municipal systems, not from springs. The Food and Drug Administration classifies spring-based bottled water as:2

Commercializing a spring to produce bottled water can be controversial. In 2019, the Canadian company Flow Alkaline Spring Water announced that it would invest over $15 million in Augusta County to bottle water from Seawright Springs. Flow Alkaline was a certified B-Corporation, obliged to consider sustainability and environmental impacts of its operations as well as profits.

Its first water source was a natural spring in Ontario, Canada. The company needed another water source to expand into East Coast sales.

Nearby residents objected to the truck traffic, and to possible impacts on water supplies for livestock and houses. Augusta County officials responded that a 1996 zoning decision authorized nine tanker trucks a day to be hauled from the spring, but residents would get to comment before a Special Use Permit allowing more trucks would be approved.3

Caves and Springs in Virginia

Groundwater in Virginia

Thermal Springs in Virginia

Links

References

1. "Parasites - Giardia," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/index.html (last checked May 1, 2019)
2. "Bottled Water Everywhere: Keeping it Safe," Food and Drug Administration (FDA), https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/bottled-water-everywhere-keeping-it-safe (last checked May 1, 2019)
3. "Canadian company bringing 51 jobs to Augusta County," News Virginian, May 1, 2019, https://www.dailyprogress.com/newsvirginian/news/local/canadian-company-bringing-jobs-to-augusta-county/article_680928a9-0b46-5172-b041-e81a648efa4e.html; "FAQ's," Flow Hydration, https://flowhydration.com/pages/about-us; "Governor Northam Announces 51 New Jobs in Augusta County," Augusta County Economic Development, April 30, 2019, http://www.augustavabusiness.com/2019/04/30/governor-northam-announces-51-new-jobs-in-augusta-county/ (last checked May 1o, 2019)


Rivers and Watersheds of Virginia
Virginia Places