HARRISBURG, PA —– The Commonwealth Drought Task Force (CDTF) declared a drought watch on August 31 for 36 Pennsylvania counties, and asked for voluntary water conservation in those …
HARRISBURG, PA —– The Commonwealth Drought Task Force (CDTF) declared a drought watch on August 31 for 36 Pennsylvania counties, and asked for voluntary water conservation in those counties. The watch continues despite recent rainfall.
“A few counties have experienced very dry conditions over the summer, and a number of others have inched into increasingly dry conditions in recent weeks. We’re asking Pennsylvanians in all of these counties to use water wisely and follow simple water conservation tips to ease the demand for water,” said Department of Protection (DEP) acting secretary Ramez Ziadeh.
The following counties, plus Wayne and Pike, are on drought watch: Berks, Bucks, Bradford, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Dauphin, Delaware, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union and Wyoming.
For a map of drought declarations that is updated daily, see the DEP drought web page at https://bit.ly/3B4OegC.
Residents on drought watch are asked to reduce their individual water use by five to 10 percent. That’s a reduction of three to six gallons of water per day.
The DEP is notifying all water suppliers in those counties about the need to monitor their supplies, and to be prepared by updating drought contingency plans as necessary. Varying localized conditions could lead water suppliers or municipalities to ask residents for more stringent conservation actions.
At this time, two public water suppliers are requiring residents to reduce their water use: Galeton Borough Water Authority in Potter County and Waterville Water Association in Lycoming County.
There are many ways to conserve water at home.
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, warming up, before you take a shower.
Run the dishwasher and washing machine less often, and only with full loads.
Water your garden in the cooler evening or morning hours, and direct the water to the ground at the base of the plant, so you don’t waste water through evaporation.
Water your lawn only if necessary. Apply no more than one inch of water per week. Avoid watering on windy and hot days. This pattern will encourage healthier, deeper grass roots. Overwatering is wasteful, encourages fungal growth and disease, and results in shallow, compacted root systems that are more susceptible to drought.
When mowing your lawn, set the blades at two or three 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 and repair household leaks. For example, a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water daily.
Sweep your sidewalk, deck or driveway instead of hosing it off.
Replace older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40 to 50 percent less energy.
Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.
Set up a rain barrel to be ready to repurpose rain when it does fall.
Find more tips at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
To determine drought conditions, the DEP assesses information on public water supply levels and data on four indicators: precipitation, surface water (stream and river) flow, groundwater level and soil moisture. Declarations aren’t based on one indicator alone, such as precipitation.
The DEP drought coordinator monitors the indicators in close partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which maintains gages in streams and wells in many locations across Pennsylvania.
There are normal ranges for all four indicators. The DEP makes drought-status recommendations after assessing departures from these ranges for all indicators, for periods of three to 12 months.
For a map that’s updated daily, showing the status of all four indicators for each county, see the USGS Pennsylvania drought condition monitoring website at pa.water.usgs.gov/apps/drought/.
The DEP shares the data and the department’s recommendations with state and federal agencies, as well as other organizations that make up the CDTF. Drought watch and warning declarations are determined by the DEP, with the concurrence of the task force.
Drought emergency declarations follow the same process, with final approval by the governor. No county is in drought warning or emergency status at this time.
The next CDTF meeting will be at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13. A location was not given.
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