Central Virginia was up to its knees in dust last year as a drought continued through the summer and into the fall. This year it’s a different story. Lake Chesdin is controlled by the Appomatox River Water Authority (ARWA) and serves as the water source for the southern area of Chesterfield, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Prince George Counties and the City of Petersburg.
“This summer is totally different than last summer isn’t it?” said ARWA Executive Director Robert C. Wichser, who supervises the day to day operation of the reservoir. “Last year, the water level was about 10 inches below the dam and now we have an inch going over, and the hydro facility is turned on [which generates electricity].”
Mr. Wichser said it has been 87 years since the water gage at Matoax near Farmville has been at a mean of 374 CFS (cubic feet per second.) Today it is at 399 CFS. During the drought of 2002 it was 46 CFS.
“The reservoirs are full throughout Virginia, the stream flows are all pretty much there, we’re in a whole different world,” Wichser said. “I’ve looked up to the sky thinking my questions have been answered. Somebody is listening to me up there.”
The ARWA director said that the storm last week had affected them just as it did many in the county. He said the facility was on generator power from Thursday evening until Friday morning.
Wichser said that according to the DEQ website there is no way we could go into a drought right now and that he expects this to be a wet season. He said even if we went into a drought right now, it would be maybe September before we began to see any problems.
The head of the watershed is Farmville and Prince Edward County, which is where the main flow for Chesdin comes from. What happens with rain in Chesterfield or nearby areas has very little impact on the reservoir, Wichser said.
Hypothetically what would be the result of 30 or more days of solid rain going forward? Wichser said the problem wouldn’t be here but in the Chesapeake Bay where you would get an influx of fresh water. It could affect the aquatic biology of the bay, the vegetation, crabs, oysters and so on.
“If you have a great influx of water into the bay it is not so good, but if you’re a water supplier, it’s a wonderful thing,” Wichser said. “One thing I did notice on the way into work, coming down Nash Road, past some of the subdivisions; it was raining and they had their sprinklers going.”