Below-average groundwater levels have caused the Department of Environmental Protection to issue a drought watch for 27 counties across Pennsylvania Tuesday.
Despite the recent surge of surface water caused by snow melt, low groundwater levels could cause well-fed water supplies, both private and public, to go dry.
The very dry fall and below-normal precipitation in January and February have contributed to low groundwater levels in the northeast and central portions of the state. The increasing temperatures and melting snow have helped, but groundwater levels may not be back to normal before the summer.
The 27 counties under the drought watch issued today are Berks, Bradford, Cambria, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne, Westmoreland, and Wyoming.
All Pennsylvanians are advised to heed this drought watch by conserving their water use and consumption.
To reduce their water use, residents can:
— Run water only when absolutely necessary; and avoid keeping water flowing while brushing teeth, or turning on the shower many minutes before use;
— Check for household leaks – a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day;
— Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads;
— Replace older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40 to 50 percent less energy; and
— Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.
DEP is notifying all water suppliers in the affected areas of the need to monitor their supplies, particularly those that rely upon groundwater, and update their drought contingency plans as necessary.
A drought watch declaration is the first and least-severe level of the state’s three drought classifications. It calls for a voluntary five percent reduction in non-essential water use and puts large water consumers on notice to begin planning for the possibility of reduced water supplies.
Through a cooperative program with the U.S. Geological Survey, DEP helps fund a statewide network of gauges to monitor groundwater levels and stream flows. This network provides the state’s drought coordinator with comprehensive data that is used to determine drought classifications.
In addition to precipitation, groundwater and stream flow levels, DEP monitors soil moisture and water supply storage. This data is shared with other state and federal agencies.
DEP also offers water conservation recommendations and water audit procedures for commercial and industrial users, such as food processors, hotels and educational institutions.These recommendations, drought-related fact sheets and other drought information are available by visiting DEP’s Drought Watch webpage. [An updated drought status map will be posted on DEP’s webpage.]