Governor issues drought advisory
Published 9:40 pm Monday, October 14, 2019
Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday announced a statewide drought watch advisory for Virginia.
A drought watch is intended to increase awareness of current conditions that are likely to precede a significant drought event. Localities, water suppliers, self-supplied water users and all citizens are encouraged begin preparations for a potential drought.
According to the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a work group coordinated by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality representing state and federal agencies, the primary factors contributing to the current drought advisory are low precipitation amounts across the state since July, low stream flows (affecting aquifers, lakes and soils), and low groundwater levels in observation wells compared to previous October levels.
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“More than half of our Commonwealth is currently experiencing a water deficit, which can have lasting agricultural, economic, environmental impacts,” said Northam. “While water conservation activities during a drought watch are generally voluntary, we encourage localities and individuals across Virginia to heed this warning and take necessary steps to monitor their water usage.”
According to a Drought Monitor map published this week by the National Weather Service, Suffolk and most of the rest of the Hampton Roads region are in “abnormally dry” conditions. The next stage after that is “moderate drought,” which is currently being experienced across much of the rest of the state.
According to the DEQ’s drought evaluation map, the Hampton Roads region is rated as “emergency” for precipitation but rated normal for groundwater and reservoir levels. No data is available for the region on streamflow.
The next stage after the statewide drought watch issued Friday is a drought warning, which indicates that a significant drought event is imminent. If a drought warning is issued, water conservation and contingency plans that are already in place — or prepared during a drought watch — would begin.
“Higher temperatures and less consistent precipitation patterns driven by climate change are making extreme weather like droughts more prevalent around the world, and Virginia is no exception,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Governor Northam and our administration are taking steps to monitor and mitigate drought impacts and address the causes and symptoms of climate change.”
Additionally, 36 localities in Virginia have issued open air burn bans. (Suffolk is not yet one of them.) Individuals are encouraged to check the Virginia Department of Forestry’s map for the latest information on active burn bans and contact their locality for further details on outdoor burning restrictions.
“Fortunately, Virginia’s vigilant task force, ongoing monitoring program and cohesive regional water resource plans are in place for this very situation, to help raise awareness across the Commonwealth and mitigate potential impacts to citizens, water suppliers, and their customers,” said DEQ Director David Paylor.
Throughout the drought watch advisory, localities, water suppliers and self-supplied water users in all areas are strongly encouraged to take voluntary steps to protect current water supplies.
- Minimize non-essential water use.
- Review or develop new local water conservation and drought contingency plans and take actions consistent with those plans.
- Share information as broadly as possible.
- Continue monitoring the condition of public waterworks and self-supplied water systems in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health.
- Impose water restrictions when consistent with local water supply conditions.
- Aggressively pursue leak detection and repair programs.
Statewide information on current drought conditions is available on the DEQ website, www.deq.virginia.gov.