County preservation panel works with volunteers to protect drinking water supply from encroaching development

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WDVM) — With so much growth and development in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, a plan is in place to keep all that land being purchased from endangering the water supply.

Jefferson County residents consider their home special. It is a scenic part of West Virginia and the abundance of flat land is desirable for development.

“This land has been prime agricultural land and recognized as such before the Civil War,” says Liz Wheeler, executive director of the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board. “That’s why George Washington came here and bought up thousands of acres of land and got his brothers to come and buy land.”

Indeed, the county seat of Charles Town is named for Washington’s brother. So much history has been made here since the nation’s founding.

“Jefferson County is the site of five Congressionally-recognized Civil War battlefields,” Wheeler notes.

With so many new residents, volunteer groups are working with developers and landowners to be sure the drinking water supply is protected through land trusts and property easements.

Tanner Haid with the West Virginia Rivers Coalition said, “It’s often overlooked that we need clean water. We all need clean water to drink, and that clean water relies on our land being healthy and protected.”

Wheeler and Haid work with developers so water intakes and wellheads are buffered from contaminants that might otherwise make their way into the water supply.

“By protecting trees along streams, all these things with conservation easements we are not just protecting conservation resources but also the drinking water supplies that rely on them,” Haid said.

To protect natural resources and the rural heritage here, West Virginians should reach out to their local farmland protection boards. These conservation efforts are funded through the real estate transfer tax, matched with federal dollars.

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