RICHMOND—Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday, October 11, announced a statewide drought watch advisory for the Commonwealth of 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 urged to 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 (DEQ) 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.
“More than half of our Commonwealth is currently experiencing a water deficit, which can have lasting agricultural, economic, environmental impacts,” said Gov. 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.”
The next stage after a drought watch 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. “Gov.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, including Northumberland and Richmond counties. Individuals are urged to check the Virginia Department of Forestry’s https://vdof.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=616ec339e6ef42629ce19e10f8aadc29 or 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. They are urged to:
• 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 https://www.deq.virginia.gov/.