Where does Mon County's drinking water come from?
Most of Mon County’s 100,000+ residents receive their drinking water from MUB, either directly or through the resale of water to other utilities, including Cheat View PSD, Clay-Battelle PSD, Clinton Water Association, Pleasant Valley PSD, Town of Star City, and Town of Masontown.
MUB’s drinking water comes from two sources: the Monongahela River and Cobun Creek.
MUB’s primary water intake is on the Mon River near downtown Morgantown. Reservoirs on Cobun Creek provide a secondary source. Water from Cobun Creek is frequently mixed with water from the Monongahela River. It also serves as a backup source, should the Monongahela River be contaminated.
Once completed in 2022, MUB’s new reservoir on Cobun Creek will store 370 million gallons of water—enough to supply drinking water to the entire county for over a month!
What are threats to drinking water?
While Mon County has some of West Virginia’s cleanest drinking water, the risk of contamination is a real and ever-present threat. Key threats to drinking water quality include:
Chemical contamination: While industrial chemicals present obvious dangers to water sources, many chemicals in our everyday lives can pose significant threats as well. This can include oil leaking from vehicles or equipment, household chemicals stored in a backyard shed, and pesticides and herbicides sprayed on agricultural land. Whether spilled directly or released through runoff, these harmful pollutants pose major contamination threats to drinking water.
Sedimentation: When land is cleared or disturbed for roads and industrial, commercial, and residential development, soil erodes and washes into streams. This sedimentation destroys habitat in streams and rivers, which is harmful to fish and aquatic life. It also fills in MUB’s reservoir and increases the cost of treating drinking water, which ultimately translates to higher rates for utility customers.
When rain flushes pollutants and contaminants into many local waterways, they flow downstream to our drinking water intakes. As a result, any pollution upstream in our watershed poses a threat to our drinking water. The more development, the higher the risk.
Why conserve land around drinking water sources?
One of the best ways to protect drinking water is to prevent pollution at our water's source.
It keeps water sources clean. Healthy ecosystems provide a wide range of services for downstream communities. Protecting open space leverages nature’s ability to capture and filter pollution, minimize flooding and erosion, and support healthy streams and habitats.
It's cost effective. When utilities start with clean source water, it’s much easier and more cost effective to treat for drinking water. According to the Trust for Public Land, for every 10% increase in forest land cover, water treatment costs decrease 20%. Conversely, it’s more difficult and expensive to clean drinking water once the source is polluted.
It adds value and enhances quality of life. Preserving green space honors Mon County’s rural nature and enhances outdoor recreation opportunities for current and future residents to enjoy. It also provides key benefits to local landowners: Studies show that homes and lot values increase dramatically when located adjacent to open space and protected land. In addition, landowners interested in donating a property to a land trust, placing a conservation easement on a property, or enrolling into an incentive program may qualify for tax benefits. (Read more about conservation options here.
Why protect Cobun Creek?
MUB is piloting the Watershed Protection Program in the Cobun Creek watershed, which covers the land between Kingwood Pike and Grafton Road. Cobun Creek is the home of MUB’s new reservoir and is a secondary drinking water source for more than 100,000 people in Mon County.
Given its proximity to Morgantown, the Cobun Creek watershed faces development pressure; however, the upper portion of the Cobun Creek watershed is still largely undeveloped. As a result, we have an opportunity to protect this critical watershed while it remains ecologically intact, which will limit potential sources of contamination from being placed close to our waterways upstream from the Cobun Creek reservoir.
With construction of the new reservoir, protecting water quality in Cobun Creek is an important component of MUB’s ongoing Source Water Protection Program. Protecting land around and upstream from the new Cobun Creek reservoir can greatly reduce sedimentation and reduce the cost of drinking water treatment. Land protection will also reduce the risk of development that could include the storage or use of chemicals that would harm human health should they spill or leak into Cobun Creek. Protecting this secondary source of drinking water will ensure that MUB has a clean water supply should a major spill occur on the Monongahela River.
What else is MUB doing to protect drinking water?
MUB’s Watershed Protection Program is the newest addition to its Source Water Protection Program.
In response to the 2014 chemical spill on the Elk River in Charleston, MUB developed a state-of-the-art Source Water Protection Program to address potential threats to Mon County’s drinking water.
Through the Source Water Protection Program, MUB collects samples and analyzes water quality at locations across the watershed. MUB also monitors public notices for permits, environmental inspection reports, and other materials for upstream facilities that might impact drinking water quality. These and other tasks are outlined in MUB’s Source Water Protection Plan, which is updated every two years.