Citizens coalition working to protect water supply in eastern panhandle

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — A partnership of water utilities, land conservation, and community groups is working to protect the quality of the eastern panhandle’s waterways and it all comes down to a quality of life issue. As the region grows, the partnership is making public safety — and health — a priority.

Says Tanner Haid, field coordinator for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, “the idea is that we can protect our farm’s field and forests from the impact of development and in doing so we’ll have less stormwater runoff.”

And to pay for it?

Mark Schiavone, who serves on the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board explains that “the county farmland protection programs are funded by a tax on real property. So when you are in a fast-growing county you end up receiving more funds that we use to purchase easements on properties.”

Jefferson County depends on a landmark waterway. John Bresland is a member of the Shepherdstown Water & Sewer Board and says “the primary source of our water is from is the Potomac River. So we’re obviously very interested in keeping the quality of the Potomac River as clean as possible and making sure there are no contaminants getting in there.”

For the coalition, protecting the waterways is all about leaving a legacy explains Georgia Jeppesen with the Land Trust Eastern Panhandle. “I’m passionate about my land and I want to make a difference. I want to protect my land forever. Not just for my kids and grandkids. I want to do that too. But I want to protect it forever and I want to make a difference through good conservation action.”

Eastern panhandle landowners can reach out to their farmland protection board or land trust to learn how they can protect the drinking water. And the coalition is targeting landowners with 20 or more acres as a priority for conservation easements. For more information, click here.

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