Northam issues statewide drought watch advisory

Governor issues drought watch

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Gov. Ralph Northam has issued a statewide drought watch advisory for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The drought watch aims to increase awareness of current conditions likely to precede a significant drought event.

Localities, water suppliers, self-supplied water users and citizens are encouraged to prepare for a potential drought.

“This is a serious situation,” Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Greg Bilyeu said.

Most of Central Virginia has been without significant rainfall for several weeks.

“We need people to start thinking about conserving water but that’s voluntary at this point,” Bilyeu said.

If things advance to the next level - which is a warning - restrictions will go into place.

The watch comes after 36 state localities issued burn bans due to dry conditions, including Colonial Heights and Chesterfield, Henrico, Dinwiddie, Louisa, Hanover, Goochland and Powhatan.

Low precipitation amounts across the state since July is the main contributing factor to dry conditions, according to the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force.

The next stage after a drought watch is a drought warning. If the warning is issued, water conservation and contingency plans are already in place.

“Washing your car, watering your lawn, things like that. It’s a good time to start foregoing those things,” Bilyeu said.

Citizens are encouraged to take steps to protect current water supplies:

  • 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.

Bilyeu says dry conditions are already costing the state and businesses money.

“There have definitely been statewide effects to agriculture and farmers. This is a very serious situation that we are keeping a close eye on,” Bilyeu said.

Information on current drought conditions is available on the DEQ website.

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