The real reasons Lake Chesdin levels are dropping

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – Everyone seems to have their own idea about why Lake Chesdin water levels seem to be dropping faster in the summer than they have over the last decade.

Some of those possible answers follow along the lines of a conspiracy theory, from hidden pipelines, to over use by local golf courses and homeowners. Then there are the folks who want to stop the discharge of water at the dam.

However, officials who watch the water supply closely said there are various reasons why the levels drop each year. But they argue that cutting off the discharge of water at the dam will never happen.

That’s because Lake Chesdin was built to supply water to Dinwiddie, Prince George and Chesterfield counties, along with the cities of Colonial Heights and Petersburg.

Since 2000, there has been a steady two percent increase in usage, including during peak times in July. That is when consumption has grown from 25 million gallons a day in 2002, to more than 42 million gallons a day.

While the amount of discharge has come under fire, especially in 2010, when the Lake hit an all time low, the discharge is by law, to keep the Appomattox River flowing.

However, the amount of water sent down stream was decreased in 2011 and the numbers will be re-calculated and is expected to be reduced again in early 2013.

One surprise about the water level comes not from the surface but the bottom. In fact, since Lake Chesdin was built in the late 1960s, silt build up on its bottom has reduced the amount of water the lake can hold by one-and-a-half billion gallons. 

The Department of Environmental Quality is investigating ways to get some of the storage space back.

Additionally, in an effort to stop the lake from dropping too low, the level needed to implement mandatory water restrictions was reduced from 88 inches in 2010 to to 66 inches below the top of the dam.

Officials said it is possible mandatory restrictions could begin as early as Aug. 16, after an Appomattox River Water Authority board meeting.

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