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Henrico building massive reservoir to ensure its water future

Cobb’s Creek Reservoir in Cumberland County should be operational in 2023
Cobb’s Creek Reservoir in Cumberland County should be operational in 2023.
Cobb’s Creek Reservoir in Cumberland County should be operational in 2023.(NBC12)
Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 2:00 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Summer is when drought can take hold, and that often causes water restrictions in Central Virginia. But Henrico County is doing everything it can to make sure water keeps flowing for decades to come. The James river supplies much of the water for the Richmond Region.

But there’s no guarantee that it will always provide what the region wants.

Although the weather has been very rainy lately - 2 of the top 3 rainiest years have come in the past 5 years - drought and water restrictions are not too far in the past to be forgotten; we covered water restrictions in 2010.

2 of the top 3 have been in the past 5 years!
2 of the top 3 have been in the past 5 years!(NWS Wakefield)

In years when drought and the heat of summer bring a big drop in the river level, Henrico can run into problems. It can only take a certain amount out, per an agreement with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Henrico County Public Utilities Director Bentley Chan describes a plan that they came up with a decade ago. Cobb’s Creek Reservoir is a mammoth construction project in Cumberland County, about 40 to 50 miles upriver from Henrico’s west end. The $280 million venture began in 2017 and is expected to be completed at the end of next year. It will be 2 miles wide and 200 feet deep - and take at least a year to fill. Three damns are being built right now.

This reservoir will work differently than most. When the river is running high, the county will pump water uphill into the reservoir. No one will notice the water going out. But when river levels drop, Henrico will slowly release water back in.

Chan says when the river is low, that water goes back out, effectively raising the level of the river. The amazing thing? There’s no pipeline to get the water from the reservoir to Henrico. The river IS the pipeline!

The early plans included other counties but Henrico ended up tackling this huge project alone.

“We recognized that this was going to be a regional benefit and we wanted to work as we always do with our neighboring localities,” said Chan. “Given the current economic situation and their expectation to not be as built out as Henrico, they’ve decided to step away from this project”

There is a benefit to Cumberland County in all of this. Henrico will be paying more than $1 million a year. And the lake won’t be a muddy hole.

Picture a huge, 200-feet-deep lake holding 15 billion gallons of water. Should make for great fishing and boating,

It will come at a cost to Henrico. Water rates will be going up slowly, but Chan says nothing drastic is on the way, and ensuring the county will have the right to withdraw what it needs in times of low flow will help Henrico grow and thrive for the next 50 years.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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