Western Tidewater under drought watch

Published 9:54 am Saturday, July 17, 2010

FRANKLIN—Below-average precipitation coupled with above-average temperatures prompted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to issue a statewide drought watch Wednesday.

More than 80 percent of the state, including Western Tidewater, is experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The drought watch is intended to increase awareness of climatic conditions that are likely to precede a significant drought event and to facilitate preparation for a drought, according to a DEQ news release.

Despite the drought watch, there are no widespread reports of drought conditions affecting public water supplies, according to the DEQ.

“We don’t, at this point, anticipate any type of aquifer running low or running dry or anything like that,” said Russ Pace, Franklin’s director of public works.

The aquifers that the city draws water from have actually been increasing in recent months because of the closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill.

However, Pace said the city encourages citizens to “try to use water-conserving measures all the time,” like turning off faucets while brushing teeth and washing dishes and watering lawns in the late evening or at night.

“There are a lot of things that we can do (to conserve water),” he said.

The DEQ is encouraging localities, public water suppliers and self-supplied water users:

Minimize nonessential water use.

Review existing or develop new local water conservation and drought contingency plans and take conservation actions consistent with those plans.

Include water conservation information on local websites and distribute water conservation 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 use restrictions when consistent with local water supply conditions.

Aggressively pursue leak detection and repair programs.