Protecting our water sources brings a wealth of benefits

Published 10:54 am Monday, March 19, 2018

The journey of our water from source to tap is long, and not one we think much about. We give little thought to the source of our water supply and usually only concern ourselves when there is no water in the pipe. Most often we think of those pipes as being our main water infrastructure, but upstream land plays a key role in capturing, storing, and moving our water. By conserving these lands, we can better protect our water and generate additional benefits for people and nature.

The City of Elizabethton gets 54 percent of its water supply from Hampton Springs, one of the oldest water sources in the area. It has been serving the city since 1907 when the Mountain Spring Water Company was organized and founded by W.E. and Fred Hunter. Initially, water was supplied to the city by a 12-inch main from Hampton Springs.
Elizabethton had running water before it had electricity or even free delivery of mail in the city.
Later the city purchased the Mountain Spring Water Company described as “clear as crystal” by its former owners. Several years later, the city purchased 42 acres of land from J.W. Horton in rear of the city’s water supply to “forestall any possible development on the farm land that might lead to the pollution of the water supply.”
Now, the city is faced with purchasing another 74 acres near the Hampton watershed to preserve its supply of “crystal clear” water. The asking price: $130,000.
We can talk about the need for the property and can haggle over the price, but in the end, the city has no alternative but to purchase the property because of its importance of preserving a major source of its water. We are fortunate that we have a pure source of water. Not many cities do. We only have to look at the headlines of the past couple of years to learn of the dilemma of Flint, Michigan residents, who have had to deal with contaminated water.
Maintaining healthy lands around our water sources is increasingly vital to the future of our water security. If water quality is not maintained, it is not only the environment that will suffer. The commercial and recreational value of our water sources will also diminish.
Those of us who live in Carter County and Elizabethton are fortunate; generally we don’t have to give a lot of thought to the safety of our tap water. This makes our collective experience with water very different from that of hundreds of millions of people across the globe who lack access to clean water.
Because almost all of us live downstream of the Hampton Springs, the city needs to take steps to ensure that upstream pollution doesn’t cause downstream havoc, and this can be done by making sure we preserve our water source and keep it healthy, and that we have a steady stream of high-quality water for years to come.
The city has no choice but to purchase the additional acreage bordering the Hampton watershed. The pricetag of $130,000 is small when we think of the implications of a contaminated water supply.

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