Information Sought for Springs Project
Rockbridge residents whose properties contain springs are being asked to contact the Natural Bridge Soil and Water Conservation District. The district is nearing completion of the current phase of a project to produce a comprehensive inventory of springs in the Maury River Watershed, which lies roughly within Rockbridge County.
The project is part of an initiative to better monitor and protect the county’s groundwater, which provides drinking water for residents who have wells and can also be a source of water for agricultural use, said Sandra Stuart, district Board member. The project is funded through a grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
So far, more than 250 points have been identified as potential locations for springs, said Alisande Tombarge, geographic services director at SKTWorks LLC, a local firm that provides geographic information system – GIS – services for conservation. The district has engaged SKTWorks to supervise the project, which in this phase will produce a comprehensive map unifying Rockbridge County springs data from 11 sources, some dating back as far as 1930, including the Rockbridge County Community Development GIS office; the Virginia departments of Environmental Quality, Conservation and Recreation and Game and Inland Fisheries; the U.S. Geological Survey; and research by Washington and Lee University students and faculty.
Fieldwork will be needed to confirm the locations, said Tombarge, since these datasets overlap and were developed at different times using different technologies. “The data may actually point to as few as 120 springs once duplicates have been eliminated,” she said.
The project builds on the foundation established by Frits van der Leeden in his Groundwater Resources of Rockbridge County, Virginia (2004), in which he recommends a field inventory of springs.
“To accomplish this goal, we need a systematic mapping of the important springs in our county,” Stuart explained. “The plan is to measure discharge from the identified significant springs and collect samples for chemical and biological analysis. This data can then be integrated with well water analyses to provide an overview of the groundwater quality in the county.”
The next phase of the project is expected to include a collaboration with Professor Dave Harbor of the W&L Geology Department. SKTWorks will contact landowners who may have springs on their properties and request that W&L geology student interns be allowed to visit the property to confirm the location of the spring and gather data on water quality and flow. Data from these visits will be used to correct and complete the map.
The resulting map will be available to help the district and other local and state organizations better protect water quality and availability.
Later phases of the project will attempt to identify locations of springs not documented in the datasets.
Residents who believe there are springs on their properties are asked to contact the district whether or not they plan to invite the interns to visit the property. The information residents provide will be included in the project, whether or not a visit occurs, and no property will be visited without the owner’s permission. Property owners’ names and contact information will not be published.
“The Springs of Rockbridge County map is a great visual aid that conveys the diversity and importance of water resources in Rockbridge,” said Tom Stanley, Virginia Cooperative Extension unit coordinator and agent and member of the district Board. “An inventory of springs is a valuable point of reference for both the county and the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”
More than 250 points from 11 datasets mark potential locations for known springs in the Maury River Watershed. Fieldwork, expected to begin this fall, will confirm locations and identify duplicates. Substantial overlap among the datasets allowed two to be omitted from the legend as their points already were represented by the nine listed datasets. (Natural Bridge Soil and Water Conservation District image prepared by SKTWorks LLC)