Is our Water Safe to Drink? Find out at the Fall Review

By Jackie Burns

Why talk about water again? Well, things are happening all the time and some of those things impact our water systems and waterways. Our bodies are still 60 percent water, so what affects water affects us. That’s why it’s good to look at water issues again from time to time. We invite you to join us Oct. 13-15, 2023 at Canaan Valley Resort State Park for the next West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Fall Review as we look at the health of our water!

As I write this, it is nearing the end of January 2023, nine years since a toxic spill into the Kanawha River upstream from the water intake for Charleston caused contamination and illness in that city and downstream a long way, including in Huntington. The rules changed, and they have changed again. Are our laws and regulations enough to protect us from future spills? 

The Conservancy is also closely watching Corridor H. As they are building the highway, streams along their route are impacted. Are contractors following the rules? If not, what can we do to change that? We have recruited and trained volunteers to test the water in streams they will cross. How will this data be used to enforce compliance? And is compliance enough to protect our waterways, or should more be done?

Not long-ago on my individual social media I posed the question, “Do young people expect the water coming through their tap to be drinkable?” The one response I got was, “No. We expect to buy bottled water to drink.” Yet I understand there is more testing and regulation for municipal water systems than for bottled water. So, is it truly better?  

PFAS chemical are in the news. These forever chemicals are being found in many waterways and municipal water supplies, and they are not good for us. What can we do about it?

Mines and mine drainage have long been a concern in the Mountain State. At the last Fall Review, we learned about efforts to clean some of the acid mine drainage by extracting rare earth elements that are useful in today’s technologies. Let’s get an update on that and look at its limitations and possibilities.

We are fortunate that our water is treated before it gets consumed by us. Fish, wildlife, and plants are not so fortunate. When we allow pollutants in our waterways, what impact does that have on other things that live here?

Who owns the water that flows across the land? What are the rights and obligations of those that use the water?

These are some of the issues we are planning to cover at the 2023 WVHC Fall Review.  Do you have ideas for other topics and speakers on this theme? If so, please email them to

Join us, won’t you? Oct. 13-15 at Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center. A block of rooms at the lodge have been reserved at a discounted rate for this event. Help us out by making your reservation in advance! Camping or cabins at the park are also available.