Frequently Asked Questions
All of the water that we use in our homes comes from either a groundwater source, such as an aquifer, or from a surface water source, such as a river, lake, or reservoir. If you live in James City County and are a customer of the James City Service Authority, you are drinking groundwater from the Chickahominy-Piney Point Aquifer.
An aquifer is a water-bearing layer of rock or sediment capable of yielding usable quantities of water. It is not an underground river, but rather a formation of porous rock that holds water. The JCSA uses wells to pump water from the aquifer to the surface, where we then treat and distribute the water to our customers.
Among the nation's supplies, groundwater is about 40 percent of the public water supply. Withdrawals of groundwater are expected to rise in the coming century as the population increases and available sites for surface reservoirs become more limited.
The JCSA's water system includes the central water system with 22 well facilities and seven independent water systems. There are approximately 343 miles of water transmission and distribution lines throughout the entire system. The water system facilities supply approximately 4.8 million gallons of water per day to 19,544 water customers. Many county residents have independent wells on their property that also draw from the Chickahominy-Piney Point aquifer.
It is impossible to measure the exact amount of water in the aquifer at any given time, but what we do know is that the surface level of the aquifer (how many feet from the surface of the ground to the surface of the aquifer) has dropped approximately thirteen feet since 1990.
Aquifers are replenished through a process called recharge. A portion of the rain, hail, or snow that lands on the ground will enter the soil. This process is called infiltration. Because of gravity, the filling of spaces between soil particles, and the pressure of the overlying water, water may continue to move down through the soil layer. As water moves past the root zone, the movement is referred to as percolation.
The recharge rate is dependent on natural factors like the makeup of the soil, plant cover, slope, and rainfall. Because we have little control over these factors, we cannot ensure that the aquifer is being replenished at the same rate it is being depleted. When the withdrawal of groundwater in an aquifer exceeds the recharge rate over a period of time, the aquifer is in over withdrawal.
Although James City County owns the land surrounding the reservoirs, the water itself belongs to Newport News. Newport News draws water primarily from the Chickahominy River, stores it in the reservoirs, pipes it to Newport News for treatment, and distributes it to customers.
The City of Williamsburg and York County each have their own water systems. Williamsburg Public Utilities pumps water from the Waller Mill reservoir and treats it at their water fitration plant. In York Coutny, water is supplied by Newport News Waterworks, York County Public Utilities, and private wells.
In the case of drought, the County will issue an emergency declaration that will initiate conservation measures as defined in the Drought Contingency Plan (James City Code, Section 33. Water Conservation and Drought Management Plan, Section B. Drought Contingency Plan.)
The Drought Declaration includes three stages of Emergency Actions. Stage One addresses voluntary conservation measures, Stage Two addresses moderate mandatory measures, and Stage Three addresses severe mandatory measures.
Each stage of the Drought Declaration will be lifted when certain parameters are met for that stage.