Thursday, November 3, 2022 / by Amy Brown
I am asked frequently by prospective homeowners about the quality and supply of water in the area and you know, I had never given it a whole lot of thought until now. I basically took it for granted that everyone had access to the amount and cleanliness of the same water that we do here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After traveling around the country and speaking with visitors from all 50 states, I have learned that many areas of our nation do not have access to clean drinking water and not only that, water is in short supply. So I wanted to do an article addressing this topic because I feel that we are extremely fortunate here in our corner to have some of the cleanest, most abundant water on the globe.
Did you know that Asheville sits in a temperate rainforest?
These mountains are old. They arose some 480 million years ago and have been shaping life in this region of North America ever since. Another thing these mountains are quite good at is creating their own weather systems. Here in southern Appalachia, warm, wet air from the Gulf of Mexico and western Atlantic blows northward until it hits the Appalachian Mountains. The mountainous terrain comprising parts of Pisgah, Nantahala, and Chattahoochee National Forests has been referred to as "the Blue Wall" and is responsible for the unique conditions that created this temperate rainforest.
As this air rises over their peaks, it begins to cool. As it does, water in the air condenses. This results in torrents of rain. On average, this area receives anywhere from 60 to 100+ inches of rain every year. The Appalachian temperate rainforest is second only to the Pacific Northwest in terms of rainfall in North America. All of this water and heat coupled with the age and relative stability of this ecosystem over time has led to the explosion of biodiversity we know and love today.
Where does our water come from?
The North Fork Reservoir (historically the Burnett Reservoir), that crystal-blue body of water that can be spotted along the Parkway between Mount Mitchell and Craggy Gardens, is one of two artificial lakes that feed the city’s water system. This 5.8 billion-gallon lake serves as the primary drinking water source for nearly 125,000 customers both inside and outside of the city limits.
According to the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, who the city designated to hold a conservation easement on the land, “the Asheville watershed hosts eleven plant species and nine animal species considered endangered, threatened, or significantly rare.” This easement not only protects the water quality and forest health of the surrounding area, it also protects the scenic vistas that make the Parkway famous!
How clean is it?
In order to keep our water as free from pollutants as possible, the city owns 22,000 acres of wilderness surrounding the Asheville watershed. You will see signs along the parkway identifying the watershed displaying no parking and no trespassing. This is to prevent contaminants from automobiles getting into the ground runoff.
The city also conducts over 200 tests daily to ensure that our water is of the highest quality and free from dangerous minerals. For specific disinfection methods please visit, https://www.ashevillenc.gov/department/water/
Where does well water come from?
If you are outside of the city, you will have to have a well since municipal water is unavailable. While this may give you pause if you are unfamiliar with well water, let me ease your mind. WNC sits on a giant granite bed. Water is found at about 100-400' underground in fractured bedrock aquifers. The average yield is 10 GPM but some drillers have seen over 100 GPM. Water from aquifers is clear, clean mountain spring water or artesian water; the best you can find. Many of my clients who have part-time residences here take jugs of water back with them to places like Florida because the water tastes so good and is so fresh.
What issues can I expect with Asheville water?
Again, since we are talking about mountain spring water, there are two issues that are commonly seen, mostly with well water, not the city system since that water is treated prior to entering your home. The first is a sulphur smell, and the second is iron. Neither of these minerals are toxic to humans. The sulphur is harmless, it simply smells bad. The iron will have a red tinge to the water and will stain your white clothing. The good thing about these water quality issues is they can almost always be resolved by a water filtration system. If it is needed, your well company can recommend the right system. They range from an inexpensive sediment filter to a tank-style system that costs around $1,650-3,200 depending on certain factors. Filtration technology has come a LONG way in the past decade and many of the systems require very little maintenance to produce the best water your taste buds have experienced.
I hope this helps to answer some of your water questions about WNC. Please call if I can be of help!