The ability of groundwater resources to meet the needs of Fauquier County over time, in terms of both water quantity and water quality, is unknown. Considerable work is needed and is on-going to help us understand this resource and to plan for the future.
Presentations at the Conservation Roundtable, July 31, 2017
- Water Demand Analysis, Piedmont Environmental Council
- Groundwater Supply Analysis, U.S. Geological Survey
- Marshall Service District, Fauquier County WSA
County residents outside of the Town of Warrenton rely exclusively on groundwater for their water supply needs. In decades past, the County explored surface water options including reservoirs, and due to high costs, impacts on historic and environmental resources, and public opposition, the Board of Supervisors abandoned the idea in favor of groundwater.
Over the past 20 years or so, the County, in conjunction with the Water and Sanitation Authority, has undertaken numerous investigations and projects focused on building water supply capacity within Service Districts. Additional approaches to monitor and protect our groundwater resources are needed to ensure a quality water supply for future generations.
In September 2014, the Board of Supervisors, Water and Sanitation Authority, and Planning Commission participated in a groundwater summit to discuss current issues and future needs. In January 2016, the Board of Supervisors approved a multi-year groundwater study to better understand the nature and characteristics of Fauquier County’s groundwater resources.
1. September 2014 Groundwater Summit
- Water Summit Briefing Papers
- Fauquier County Water and Sanitation Authority
- Individual Speakers’ Presentations
- Water Summit Summary
An audio recording may be obtained through the Department of Community Development (540-422-8210) email
2. Long-range Groundwater Study, 2016
(Initiated as a result of the Water Summit)
3. Previous Hydrogeologic Studies
If I’m on a private well and worried about water supply, how can I connect to the public water system?Contact the Fauquier County Water and Sanitation Authority (FCWSA) at (540) 349-2092. FCWSA can tell you whether your property is located in an area served by public water. If your property is not located in such an area, in most cases you will not be able to connect to the public water system.
Are Fauquier County’s groundwater aquifers vulnerable?
Yes. Currently, Fauquier County’s aquifers are vulnerable due to several factors. Some Service Districts currently have limited water supplies; while other Service Districts may have enough water supply, but they lack sufficient water storage facilities. Still other Service Districts have water supplies that have water quality issues requiring on-going treatment. None of our Service Districts have effective groundwater monitoring programs that focus on safeguarding existing supplies. While Fauquier County and the County’s main water utility (Fauquier County Water and Sanitation Authority) are actively working to address these concerns, the solution to most of these vulnerabilities require money, time, and a community commitment focused on improving these shared resources.
How abundant are Fauquier County’s groundwater resources?
Currently, the extent, nature, and long-term sustainability of Fauquier County’s aquifers is largely unknown. There may be sufficient data for certain areas of the County to allow reasonable assumptions, but more work is needed to better assess the characteristics of Fauquier County’s aquifers.
Are vegetative buffers required for Fauquier County streams?
While providing a protective vegetative screen along surface streams may likely be good for the health of the stream, in most instances, there are no laws or regulations in Fauquier County that requires stream buffers. There are state and federal financial assistance programs designed for landowners, especially farmers that want to restore vegetative buffers along streams. In many instances, conditions to receive this financial assistance may require the establishment of stream buffers, but enrollment in these financial assistance programs is entirely voluntary. While stream buffers may not be legally required, the maintenance of streamside vegetation is encouraged, since these buffers help keep Fauquier County’s streams clean.
Are Fauquier County’s streams clean?
Some are and some are not. The federal Clean Water Act requires each state to evaluate the water quality of surface waters and every two years produce a list of surface waters in the state that does not meet the water quality standards for established designated uses. For instance, there are different water quality standards for human recreation use versus aquatic life. These lists are often referred to as the state’s “Impaired Waters”. There are many streams in Fauquier County that are on Virginia’s Impaired Waters list. Most of these impairments are due to not meeting the Recreational Water Use standard caused by elevated levels of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. The source of this E. coli may be due to (in no particular order) runoff from livestock operations, failing septic systems, wildlife, pet waste, and improper discharges into stormwater systems. Fauquier County’s Impaired Waters are located in all parts of the County, so the factors leading to these water quality concerns may be multi-faceted and widespread. Potential solutions may require incremental progress by all affected parties in each watershed.
What is an “MS4 Permit”?
The term “MS4” is an abbreviation for “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System”. Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued and administers over 100 MS4 Permits within Virginia. Fauquier County received its MS4 Permit in May 2014. The purpose of MS4 Permits is to ensure that surface water quality within urbanized areas is improved, and that these waters are properly managed.
The general premise of an MS4 Permit is as follows:
- Urban stormwater systems are known to pollute surface waters.
- These stormwater systems are owned by some public entity.
- That public entity is either generating pollutants and discharging into surface waters, or is allowing pollutants generated elsewhere, to flow through their stormwater system to eventually discharge into surface waters.
- Therefore, that public entity must manage their stormwater systems in a way that reduces the pollutant load within their stormwater systems.
- The MS4 Permit allows that public entity to discharge urbanized stormwater into surface waters, but must legally take systematic steps to ensure that the pollutant load within their urban stormwater is reduced.
- Since all of Fauquier County’s stormwater eventually enters the Chesapeake Bay, the County’s MS4 Permit is closely tied to the restoration goals of the Chesapeake Bay.
Where can I get more information on groundwater-related issues?
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality 703-583-3800 http://deq.state.va.us
Fauquier County Environmental Services 540-422-8840 www.fauquiercounty.gov/government/departments-a-g/environmental-services
Fauquier County Water and Sanitation Authority 540-349-2092 www.fcwsa.org
National Response Center 800-424-8802 http://nrc.uscg.mil
Virginia Department of Health 540-347-6400 www.vdh.state.va.us
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 800-438-2474 www.epa.gov
What are the common types of aquifers in Fauquier?
The most common type of aquifer in Fauquier County is fractured bedrock aquifer. A type of rock that normally does not hold a lot of water may hold a lot of water if there is a large fracture or crack in the bedrock. In these aquifers, water may flow very fast in the direction of the crack, but very slowly between the next series of cracks. Water flow in these aquifers is highly variable, depending upon the direction of the cracks and how connected they are to each other. Since most of the County’s aquifers are the fractured bedrock type, things placed on the surface may find their way to the groundwater, unfiltered, within hours or days. Activity on the surface has a direct effect upon the groundwater quality. 84% of the residents in Fauquier County rely on groundwater for their drinking water. It is therefore critical to properly dispose of household cleaners, medications, paint products, auto fluids and gardening chemicals. The Fauquier County Environmental Services Department operates a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program to enable citizens to properly dispose of these materials. Responsible stormwater management, good landscaping, construction and agricultural practices, including the proper dosage of fertilizers and other house and farm chemicals, are also important in protecting the aquifer.
How quickly does water move through aquifers?
Some of the bedrock voids are so small they are microscopic. For instance, a brick contains microscopic pores. A brick placed in water, will slowly absorb some water and begin filling these pores. Water moves through these aquifers slowly. On the other end of the spectrum is bedrock containing large voids such as caves or the spaces between large-sized gravel. Water moves through these aquifers quickly. There are many aquifers that flow as fast as some surface rivers. An example of this is West Virginia’s Cacapon Mountain aquifer, which is a tributary of the Potomac River.
What Is Groundwater?
Groundwater is simply water that lies below the Earth’s surface, whether held by the soil or lying in voids contained within bedrock. The source of groundwater is precipitation that fell on the Earth’s surface. Some of this water evaporates, some is consumed by plants and animals, some runs off the surface and washes into lakes and streams, and some sinks and enters the local groundwater. Groundwater in one location may be connected to groundwater in another location. A particular system of interconnected groundwater is called an aquifer.