Drought Coordinator Amends
~Lifts car wash, lawn watering, swimming pool,
and golf course bans in Executive Order 33~
RICHMOND — Governor Mark R. Warner’s Drought Coordinator today amended water use restrictions placed on six water basins in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as implemented by the Governor on August 30, 2002 in Executive Order 33. Due to rainfall since September 1, drought conditions have decreased to moderate to severe classifications in the majority of the Commonwealth, with a significant portion of the Commonwealth currently classified now as abnormally dry.
“With the advent of recent rains, cooler weather, and leaf fall, the Commonwealth is generally in a much better position for public water supply during the winter,” said Drought Coordinator David Paylor, who serves as Governor’s Warner’s Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources. “Most public water supplies now appear to be in relatively good shape for the next few months. For this reason, water restrictions regarding swimming pools, outdoor watering of lawns and golf courses, and car washing are currently being suspended (item C. of Executive Order 33). All other provisions of the order remain in force.”
That means that citizens across the Commonwealth must continue to observe their local restrictions, but on the state level, restrictions on car washing, outdoor watering, refilling of swimming pools, and watering of golf courses have been lifted effective immediately in the cities of Bedford, Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Chesapeake, Colonial Heights, Covington, Danville, Emporia, Franklin, Fredericksburg, Hampton, Harrisonburg, Hopewell, Lynchburg, Lexington, Martinsville, Newport News, Norfolk, Petersburg, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Radford, Richmond, Roanoke, Salem, Staunton, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Waynesboro, Williamsburg, and Winchester and the counties of Albemarle, Alleghany, Amelia, Amherst, Appomattox, Augusta, Bath, Bedford, Botetourt, Brunswick, Buckingham, Campbell, Caroline, Charles City, Charlotte, Chesterfield, Clarke, Craig, Culpeper, Cumberland, Dinwiddie, Essex, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Franklin, Frederick, Gloucester, Goochland, Greene, Greensville, Halifax, Hanover, Henrico, Henry, Highland, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Louisa, Lunenburg, Madison, Mathews, Mecklenburg, Middlesex, Montgomery, Nelson, New Kent, Northumberland, Nottoway, Orange, Page, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Powhatan, Prince Edward, Prince George, Rappahannock, Richmond, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Southampton, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Surry, Sussex, Warren, Westmoreland, and York.
It is imperative to understand that the drought continues. Virginia has had four years of rain deficits that cannot be made up in a couple of months. The most critical aspect of the ongoing drought is to recover adequate groundwater levels to sustain stream flow during dry periods and to provide water for those who rely on wells. Continued above average rainfall or snow from November through March is critical to begin to see groundwater improvements. Should that not happen, the drought could intensify again next spring and summer. Consequently, this suspension of water use restrictions will be re-evaluated in the winter to determine what conservation measures are appropriate for the spring.
Additionally, local conditions regarding public water supply vary and, in light of the potential long-term nature of drought recovery, local governments should continue appropriate water conservation measures aimed at preserving adequate water for their citizens.
Well failures continue to be a problem, since groundwater takes longer to recharge than surface waters have. Since July, 6,788 wells have failed in the Commonwealth – as compared to a dozen in a non-drought year (2,232 failures were reported in July, 1,878 in August, 1,460 in September, and 1,218 in October). Last week, the Governor announced the creation of the Dry Well Replacement Program to assist low-income well owners in digging new wells.
Surface waters, however, are returning to very encouraging levels. Major reservoirs have largely refilled or are refilling.
Lake Moomaw in the upper James Basin has gone from 20% full to 64% full and is now rising at a rate of about 14% per week. It could very well be full by the end of the month. Kerr Lake is now at 299 feet above mean sea level, and has rebounded from eight feet below the guide curve this summer to 1.5 feet above the guide curve at present. Smith Mountain Lake is now only two feet below full, and has risen two feet in the past month and a half, expected to return to full capacity in the coming weeks. The Charlottesville reservoirs are 83% full and those in Portsmouth are at 67% capacity. Both systems are rising.
Reservoirs with small watersheds, such as Lake Anna, Lake Philpott and Carvin’s Cove Reservoir, are refilling more slowly. Lake Anna bottomed out at 4.8 feet below full and has gained six inches in the past two weeks. Lake Philpott is still seven feet below guide curve, but the good news is it is five feet above where it was last year and still rising versus still falling at the same time last year. Philpott is expected to be back to normal this spring.
Rivers flows are much higher compared to August. The James River at Cartersville is now flowing at 10,600 cubic feet per second (cfs) and rising, compared to less than 400 cfs in August. The Appomattox River at Farmville is now 1570 cfs, compared to less than four cfs in August. The Rapidan River near Culpeper is now 670 cfs , compared to less than four cfs when Orange ran out of water.
The cooler temperatures combined with recent rainfall have significantly improved conditions at the Department of Game and Inland Fishery’s hatcheries and allowed the stocking of trout as scheduled. Most public boat ramps and fishing piers have increased accessibility when compared to one month ago, but 15 boat ramps are out of service due to low levels.
According to the National Weather Service, significant rainfall occurred across the entire Commonwealth in the last week, with most areas receiving between two and four inches of precipitation. For the last six weeks, most areas in Virginia have received between five and nine inches of precipitation, with totals in several portions of the state exceeding 10 inches. This rain has resulted in significant improvement in short-term drought conditions. Above average precipitation is still needed during the next three to six months to alleviate the long-term drought conditions prevalent across the state.
The remaining provisions of Executive Order 33 will remain in place, including the mandatory conservation order on state agencies, the authority of the State Forester to declare an open burning ban in wildfire susceptible areas if conditions warrant, and the authority of the Departments of State Police, Transportation and Motor Vehicles to grant temporary overweight/overwidth/registration/license exemptions to carriers transporting essential emergency relief supplies into and through the Commonwealth.
Following the signing of Executive Order 33, public water supply savings topped 16% as compared to 2001 usage levels. Average conservation savings for October stood at 9.47%, and savings for November thus far have been 4.04 %. During the fall season, there is traditionally less outdoor water use, which accounts for the reduced savings achieved recently.
All state agencies, which were ordered by Governor Warner to reduce their consumption by at least 15%, have instituted measures for water savings. To achieve these reductions, agencies have taken a variety of actions including stopping the use of exterior fountains, installing timed showers, and establishing water savings criteria for evaluating contract solicitations. The College of William and Mary has reduced its water consumption by 21% since Executive Order 33 was issued. The University of Virginia also achieved savings of more than 20% compared to 2001. Additional savings are expected once agencies are able to quantify their savings at the end of their billing cycles.