Henrico invests $280 million to guarantee water supply

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Rainfall alone may not be a long term solution to the region's water woes, but several area counties have 15 billion reasons to be optimistic. That's the amount of water that would fit in the future Cobbs Creek Reservoir.

Henrico County will own and operate the site about 40 miles away in Cumberland County. Years from now, it may finally put an end to all these water restrictions.

It may be raining today, but the ripple effect of the drought is getting bigger.

"Populations are growing, communities are getting larger, and there's a greater dependency for water than there ever has been before," said Michael Cooper, Assistant County Administrator in Cumberland.

For that reason, Henrico is building the Cobbs Creek reservoir in a remote, wooded, area of Cumberland County, which had the ideal topography for the project.

"We can't predict the future, but history would tell us that this will not be the last time we face times of drought," Cooper said.

When the James River is high, the reservoir will  draw water in. When the river is low, it'll send water gushing downstream for the use of customers in Henrico, Cumberland, and Powhatan.

But the reservoir won't arrive overnight. It'll take 3-5 years just to buy up all the land, another 3-5 to build it, and after all that's done, another year and a half just to fill it.

"It's an 1,100 acre body of water that'll hold about 15 billion gallons of water," said Tim Kennell, chairman of the Cumberland County board of supervisors.

With all that extra water, the Cobbs Creek project may one day make restrictions a thing of the past.

But it won't likely benefit the area that needs water the most right now.

On Lake Chesdin, in Chesterfield, the water level continues to drop. Emergency restrictions are in effect. Talks to build an additional reservoir on the Appomattox River in Amelia have been stalled by the sour economy. The Appomattox River serves water customers in parts of Chesterfield and the Tri-Cities.

Henrico, however, is investing $280 million in Cobbs Creek.

"This is a lot bigger than just a water supply for Cumberland or Powhatan or Henrico," Kennell said, adding, "The general health and well being of the James River will be better for having this reservoir."

The Cobbs Creek reservoir plans are said to be so big that if it never rained for two whole years, it would still have enough water to meet the needs of Henrico, Cumberland, and Powhatan. In time, Goochland and Hanover customers will also benefit from the project, which is at least 10 years away from being finished.

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