In the 1930s, Carvins Creek was dammed to create the Carvins Cove Reservoir, which for many decades served as the primary water source for the city of Roanoke. A small rural community was displaced by the reservoir's creation, and some of its roads and housing foundations become visible during droughts. A series of droughts in the late 1990s spurred the city of Roanoke and Roanoke County to create the Western Virginia Water Authority, which consolidated their water delivery systems.
The reservoir and the land below the 1,200 foot (366 m) contour are owned by the authority. The land above the 1,200 foot (366 m) contour is owned by the City of Roanoke. In April 2008, Roanoke City Council placed 6,185 acres of Carvins Cove under a conservation easement donated to the Western Virginia Land Trust and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. The easement protects much of the Cove from inappropriate development and is the largest ever recorded in the Commonwealth of Virgnia.
Recreational activities, such as mountain biking, hiking, and equestrian activities, are allowed around the reservoir. Boating and fishing are allowed on the reservoir itself, but there are strict limits to preserve water quality. The fear of zebra mussels motivated the city to apply the first restrictions in the early 1990s.