Wednesday, October 28, 2020

DEP Adds One County To Drought Watch, Bringing Total To Thirty

On October 28, after a meeting of the Commonwealth Drought Task Force, the Department of Environmental Protection added Columbia County to the list of counties on drought watch, bringing the total to thirty.

Drought watch has been declared for Armstrong, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Columbia, Cumberland, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Warren, and Wyoming counties.

Three additional counties—Clinton, McKean, and Potter—are on drought warning.

In counties on drought warning, consumers are asked to reduce their individual water use 10 to 15 percent, based on a statewide average of 62 gallons per person per day. This means a reduction of six to nine gallons a day.

In counties on drought watch, consumers are asked to reduce their individual water use 5 to 10 percent, or a reduction of three to six gallons of water per day.

DEP is notifying water suppliers in these counties of the need to monitor their supplies and be prepared by updating their drought contingency plans as necessary. Varying localized conditions may lead water suppliers or municipalities to ask residents for more stringent conservation actions by residents.

Thirteen public water suppliers have begun requiring consumers to reduce their water use. Eleven suppliers are asking consumers to voluntarily make reductions. 

Find this list and more information on DEP’s Drought webpage.

“Although there's been precipitation in some areas, and some indicators are beginning to improve in some counties, we still have a ways to go to get out of these deficits,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We're asking consumers in these counties to use water wisely and follow simple water conservation tips to ease the demand for water.”

There are many ways to reduce water use around the house and yard, including:

-- Run water only when necessary. Don’t let the faucet run while brushing your teeth or shaving. -- Shorten the time you let the water run to warm up before showering. Use a bucket to catch the water and reuse it to water your plants.

-- Run the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads.

-- When watering your garden, be efficient and effective: Water in the evening or morning, and direct the water to the ground at the base of the plant, so you don’t waste water through evaporation.

-- Water your lawn sparingly and only if necessary. Over-watering is wasteful, encourages fungal growth, and results in shallow, compacted root systems that are more susceptible to drought.

-- Reuse old water from bird baths, vases, or pet bowls to water plants.

-- When mowing your lawn, set the blades to 2-3 inches high. Longer grass shades the soil, improving moisture retention. It also grows thicker and develops a deeper root system, so it can better survive drought.

-- Check for household leaks. For example, a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water daily.

-- Sweep your sidewalk, deck, or driveway, rather than hosing it off.

-- Replace older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40-50 percent less energy.

-- Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.

Click Here to find more tips for indoor and outdoor water saving at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

DEP makes drought watch, warning, or emergency declaration recommendations based on four numeric indicators. The agency gets stream flow and groundwater level data from a statewide network of gauges maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. 

In addition, DEP monitors precipitation and soil moisture. DEP also factors in information it receives from public water suppliers.

There are normal ranges for all four indicators, and DEP makes its drought status recommendations after assessing the departures from these normal ranges for all indicators for periods of 3-12 months. Declarations are not based on one indicator alone.

 For details on indicator monitoring, see this DEP fact sheet: Drought Management in Pennsylvania.

DEP shares these data and its recommendations with other state and federal agency personnel who make up the Commonwealth Drought Task Force. Drought watch and warning declarations are determined by DEP, with the concurrence of the task force. 

Drought emergency declarations follow the same process, with final approval by the Governor.

A drought emergency has not been declared for any county.

The next Drought Task Force meeting will be held in approximately two weeks.

For more information, visit DEP’s Drought webpage.

[Posted: October 28, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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