Virginia Water Justice
The Code of Virginia (§ 62.1-254) states that the control of groundwater resources belongs to the public. Thus all efforts must be made to ensure public access and affordability of water for private use by Virginia residents, instead of being treated as a commodity.
Though water is considered a public good, industries like pipelines and power plants, airports, and distribution centers are all considerable threats to Virginia water sources. This is especially alarming as 60 of Virginia’s 95 counties rely on private wells. In total, there are more than one million households in Virginia using private wells.
Virginia water quality is also threatened by antiquated infrastructure and pipes that contain toxic chemicals that degrade water quality. Across the US, between 6 and 10 million old pipes made of lead still connect people’s homes with local water supplies. These pipes naturally deteriorate and corrode over time, releasing lead and contaminants into our household water. In a state like Virginia filled with older cities, there are various instances in which residents can be exposed to lead and other toxins through household water, stormwater, and plumbing systems that are dated, contaminating water in homes, schools, and other facilities.
As water resources like the Potomac aquifer are depleting with worsening effects of climate change, and costs to replace old water infrastructure are unaffordable for local municipalities in cities like that of Petersburg, VA, privatization is another considerable challenge to equitable water access.
These threats of water privatization, industry pollution, and antiquated infrastructure present multiple environmental burdens for low-income communities, rural communities, Black, Indigenous, and persons of color communities. It is crucial that Virginia prioritizes clean, affordable water for its residents as water is essential to human life, health and prosperity.
Threats in Virginia Communities
Landfills can hold hazardous waste that seeps into groundwater that threatens the quality of Virginia drinking water.
- The Charles City County landfill in Charles City County, VA. Watch our live show episode with community members to learn more about their efforts
- Proposed mega-landfill in Cumberland County, VA also threatening the Pine Grove Elementary School, a historical landmark and beloved community space for the Pine Grove Community. Watch our live show episode with a Pine Grove community member and president of the AMMD Pine Grove Project, Muriel Branch, to learn more about their efforts.
Pipelines and power plants are the biggest sources of water pollution in the country and use water for cooling – up to a billion gallons each day! As this water is discharged back to the river, pollution occurs. Additionally, pipelines and power plants frequently create erosion and mudslides, ultimately increasing pollution and sedimentation in waterways.
- Mountain Valley Pipeline going through various counties in southwest Virginia.
Airports and distribution centers are large contributors to surface and stormwater runoff that can contain pollutants that run down into local streams and/or seep into groundwater.
- Hanover County Municipal Airport in Brown Grove community in Hanover, VA. Watch our conversation with members of the Brown Grove community to learn more about their ongoing fight for environmental justice.