Water Resource Challenges for Southern West Virginia: Case study of water inequity in rural Appalachian communities

Authors: Francesca Mundrick*, University of Pennsylvania, Mahvish Ilyas, University of Pennsylvania
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Human Rights, Cultural Geography
Keywords: West Virginia, water resources, drinking water
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download


Water is a necessary resource in the sustainability of any community. Obtaining clean drinking water is a contemporary challenge for the residents of McDowell and Wyoming Counties of Southern West Virginia. Water treatment systems, distribution piping, and trained maintenance staff are examples of severely lacking variables of water system inadequacies for citizens of this rural region. Existing water infrastructure is remnant of the coal industry of the early 1900s, coal companies provided water to company towns known as unincorporated ‘coal camps’. After decades of neglect, many water systems once servicing bustling coal camps are now left in deficiency to provide for small rural towns. The water resource systems of Southern West Virginia are no longer fully operational, forcing the residents of these counties to acquire water in a number of alternative ways. Residents maintain wells, collect rain water and spring water, and purchase water to source their personal water needs. Water quality issues have arisen, observations have been made confirming residents piping water from abandoned coal mines and mine pools. A modern American water resource disaster, the basic needs of the rural communities of Southern West Virginia have gone unnoticed. To support solving this waterless complexity, efforts must focus on providing education, practical solutions, and viable options to West Virginia residents, stakeholders, public outreach initiatives, and water conservation groups.

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