Governor Warner Revises Drought State of Emergency Declaration
— Lawn-watering and car-washing ban for most of state;
mandatory limit set for state agencies —
RICHMOND — Governor Mark R. Warner today revised and expanded the existing state of emergency related to the three-year drought affecting the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“The severe drought we faced one week ago is still with us today,” said Governor Warner. “Unfortunately, the rain has bought some of our most stressed localities an extra week or ten days of water at the most. It is imperative that we protect the Commonwealth’s vital water resources through the duration of the drought. We must do so fairly, and in a way that minimizes undue hardships for commerce and industry.”
Executive Order 33 directs and authorizes several specific actions, including the following items.
- Orders all executive branch agencies and institutions to refrain from any nonessential water use, including but not limited to watering lawns, washing vehicles, and other unnecessary water use. Each cabinet secretary shall be responsible for ensuring that agencies and institutions within their secretariat minimize water usage by at least 15 percent.
- Prohibits any person or household who uses surface waters or ground water in the Shenandoah, James, Rappahannock, Chowan, York, and Roanoke River basins, from watering lawns, washing vehicles, except at a commercial car wash, filling swimming pools, except for pools used by health care facilities for patient care and rehabilitation, and irrigating golf courses, except for night-time watering of tees and greens. Geographically, these bans cover most of the Commonwealth, with the exception of Northern Virginia and far Southwest Virginia.
- Appoints David Paylor, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources, as drought coordinator for the executive branch.
- Directs the Superintendent of Public Instruction to work with local school divisions to encourage water conservation and educate school children about the importance of water conservation.
- Continues an existing order that authorizes the Departments of State Police, Transportation and Motor Vehicles to grant temporary overweight, overwidth, registration, and license exemptions to carriers transporting essential emergency relief supplies.
- Urges all citizens of the Commonwealth and visitors to the Commonwealth to refrain from any open burning in the forests, parks, natural areas, and other wildfire susceptible areas of the Commonwealth, in order to minimize the risk of wild fires. Delegates to the State Forester the authority to declare an open burning ban in wild fire susceptible areas of the Commonwealth. Directs the State Forester to initiate crew and helicopter training of the Virginia National Guard for fighting wildfires.
- Orders full implementation of the Virginia Emergency Operations Plan, along with other appropriate state agency plans. Directs appropriate activation of the Virginia Emergency Operations Center (VEOC) and State Emergency Response Team (SERT).
If Virginia localities have restrictions that go beyond this Executive Order, they will remain in place. This order establishes new minimum restrictions for public use of water in the above water basins. In order to enforce these restrictions, local governments may establish, collect, and retain fines on violators.
Governor Warner also announced other efforts related to water conservation, but not specifically addressed in Executive Order 33. The Governor is urging hotels and restaurants to reduce water by washing linens less frequently and serving water only upon request. The Governor is working with Virginia Tech to enlist retired extension agents to assist farmers. The Governor has directed Secretary of Commerce and Trade Michael J. Schewel to meet with industrial “mega-users” of water to seek conservation agreements. The Governor’s staff will meet with local government liaisons and the Virginia Association of Counties and Virginia Municipal League to address local concerns and to share information related to the drought.
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