Above Photo: Mill Run Spring in Bath County.
Springs are important natural resources. They serve as water sources for wildlife and maintain stream-flows during drought. Springs were sought after by native americans and early european settlers as sources of drinking water and mechanical power to operate grain-mills and furnace-bellows. Today they remain sources of many public, industrial, agricultural, and private water supplies.
DEQ's Ground Water Characterization Program (GWCP) recognizes that springs are one of the most basic, important, and often times forgotten components of any hydrologic study. The distribution of springs, their ranges of discharges and water chemistry yield insight into how ground water is stored and transmitted in a region. The first significant attempt to inventory springs in Virginia was published by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1930 (Springs of Virginia, Division of Water Resources and Power, Bulletin 1, 1930, see link below to download). Unfortunately this old publication is now officially out of print and suffers from locational accuracy problems due to the lack of high quality base maps at the time it was compiled. Since that time, significant contributions to documenting spring characteristics have been sporadic and fragmented meaning that the majority of spring locations remain unmapped in most parts of the state (see figure below).
An initiative is underway by the GWCP to locate, characterize, and publish a database of springs throughout Virginia with a concentration on the predominantly carbonate terrains of western Virginia. A comprehensive database of this basic information is necessary for any attempt to understand regional water resources in such complex terrains as the carbonate aquifers of western Virginia. This geospatial database will also have value to other programs in DEQ such as PREP and Petroleum that deal with subsurface contaminant transport. Working agreements, standardized spring reporting forms and definitions (see link below to download) are being developed by the GWCP that will be used by field personnel in sister agencies such as DCR, and DMMR in order to multiply the rate of compilation of new springs into a central database of spring locations, morphology, discharge, and basic geo-chemistry.
You can help. If you would like to contribute to the Spring Survey Program, download the Spring Reporting Form and fill in as much information as you can and send it in. If you have trouble completing the form, contact Joel Maynard.
A GWCP geologist may contact you or the spring owner to arrange a site visit. After locating the spring with a high-accuracy GPS unit, spring morphology is catalogued, and a discharge measurement is taken if possible using a variety of flow-meters, flumes, and volumetric devices. Basic geochemistry parameters such as pH, conductivity, total dissolved solids, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and salinity are also collected during an OGWC geologist site visit.
Locations of Springs in database as of February 2008.