Ground­wa­ter ‘emer­gency’, stream­flow ‘watch’ is­sued

Only such drought ‘emer­gency’ in state

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By John Mc­caslin Rappahannock News staff

It’s bone dry in Rappahannock County — drier than much of Vir­ginia — and there’s lit­tle re­lief in sight.

As a re­sult, the Vir­ginia Drought Mon­i­tor­ing Task Force (DMTF) has de­clared a “ground­wa­ter emer­gency” for Rappahannock County and its North­ern Pied­mont re­gion. It is the only such drought emer­gency — the high­est clas­si­fi­ca­tion — is­sued so far in the state.

In ad­di­tion, a stream­flow “watch” has been is­sued for Rappahannock County and im­me­di­ate sur­round­ing coun­ties to the south and east.

The four drought stage clas­si­fi­ca­tions are nor­mal, watch, warn­ing and emer­gency.

“Drought ‘emer­gency’ re­sponses are gen­er­ally re­sponses that are re­quired dur­ing the height of a sig­nif­i­cant drought event,” states the DMTF. “Dur­ing these times, it is likely that some wa­ter sup­plies will not sup­ply the amount of wa­ter needed by all users and non-es­sen­tial uses of wa­ter should be elim­i­nated.”

The DMTF, an in­ter­a­gency group of tech­ni­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives from state and fed­eral agencies, uses four ini­tial in­di­ca­tors to gauge the pres­ence and sever­ity of hy­dro­logic drought: ground­wa­ter lev­els, pre­cip­i­ta­tion deficits, stream­flow, and reser­voir stor­age.

Vir­ginia is di­vided into thir­teen Drought Eval­u­a­tion Re­gions, in­clud­ing North­ern Pied­mont, an eight-county area that in­cludes Culpeper and Madi­son coun­ties. Fauquier County is not in the re­gion.

Vir­ginia law ad­dresses en­force­ment mea­sures dur­ing droughts — in ru­ral ar­eas pri­mar­ily sur­round­ing wa­ter con­ser­va­tion and man­age­ment plans deal­ing with crops and cat­tle.

“Manda­tory wa­ter con­ser­va­tion re­quire­ments con­tained in wa­ter con­ser­va­tion and con­tin­gency plans should be ini­ti­ated at this [emer­gency] stage,” the DMTF states of the county’s ground­wa­ter emer­gency. “Manda­tory wa­ter con­ser­va­tion ac­tiv­i­ties gen­er­ally re­sult in wa­ter use re­duc­tions of 10 to 15 per­cent.”

There is no mea­sur­able pre­cip­i­ta­tion in the fore­cast for the next 10 days in Rappahannock, which is not good news con­sid­er­ing the county has al­ready been en­dur­ing Septem­ber tem­per­a­tures well above nor­mal for sev­eral weeks.

The Vir­ginia Drought As­sess­ment and Re­sponse Plan guides all drought mon­i­tor­ing, eval­u­a­tion and re­sponse in Vir­ginia, while the DMTF is re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing drought con­di­tions and mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for drought stage dec­la­ra­tions.

The DMTF meets to as­sess con­di­tions and make rec­om­men­da­tions re­gard­ing drought sta­tus. It last met on Sept. 14, when it “agreed to rec­om­mend con­tin­u­ing the ex­ist­ing Drought Watch in the North­ern Pied­mont re­gion, based upon a fore­cast for above-nor­mal tem­per­a­tures and be­low-nor­mal pre­cip­i­ta­tion, and the con­tin­u­ing low ground­wa­ter lev­els with con­se­quent po­ten­tial for low base flows.”

An up­dated drought sta­tus re­port was is­sued on Sept. 18. The next DMTF meet­ing is sched­uled for Oct. 12.

North­ern Pied­mont re­gion (in­clud­ing Rappahannock)

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