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Cost of Growth: Running out of clean water

Photo credit: WLOS Staff

As the populations in nearby communities grow, the clean water supply is starting to run out in some areas.

In Weaverville, there's plenty of water flowing through the Ivy River. The town is using about 1.5 million gallons a day, even though it's permitted to use 4 million a day.

However, there is a limit on how much can flow through the nearby water treatment facility.

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"We will have to expand, whether it's our own operation, our plant, or expand in the way of purchasing water," said Town Manager Selena Coffey.

Coffey explains that right now, the system is operating at about 37 percent capacity, but when you add in already planned development, that number jumps to 70 percent.

Coffey says it's not a matter of if the town will be forced to expand their service, but when.

"It is definitely a matter of when and how," said Coffey. She says they have several options but each will be costly, between $4 million and $8 million.

One possibility is expanding the current facility, which would double the capacity. It's an option that was discussed when the plant was built in 1997.

The facility was actually designed for expansion.

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"We can add on site expansion, another option would be to work through wells," said Coffey.

Mayor Al Root says they're also considering buying water from Asheville or creating a new agreement with surrounding communities. "Is it time to seek out neighbors such as Mars Hill perhaps, or other folks who could easily draw upon the Ivy River north of Weaverville so they can actually supply the northern area and bill it as a regional water source," said Root.

Coffey says they aren't panicked, but they know a decision must be made soon so that the system is ready when it's needed.

"It's a huge task for this area, it's a beautiful area, everyone wants to live here, everyone wants to build here and so it's really the planning and to be out ahead of it as much as possible," said Coffey.

Weaverville leaders say they hope to have a plan in place in the coming year, since they estimate that it will take three to five years to get the system in place.

We want to know how Asheville's growth is affecting you. Email us at I-team@wlos.com with your point of view.

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