Saturday, August 24, 2019

Low groundwater levels spur drought watch for 27 Pennsylvania counties

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a drought watch for 27 counties in the state’s northeast and central regions on Tuesday due to below-average groundwater levels.

A drought watch is the DEP’s least-severe classification, calling for a voluntary 5 percent reduction in non-essential water use and advising large water consumers to begin planning for shortages. While snow melt has increased groundwater levels in the past weeks, it has not been enough to offset the effects of a dry fall and below-average precipitation to begin the year. This may be enough for the low groundwater levels to continue into the summer, which could cause water supplies to go dry.

The DEP has warned water suppliers to monitor their stocks and update their contingency plans. On a household level, it has issued several recommendations for water conservation, including checking appliances for leaks and only running dishwashers and washing machines with full loads.

Monitoring groundwater levels, stream flows, soil moisture and water supply storage, the DEP cooperates with the U.S. Geological Survey to keep up a statewide network of gauges. The drought coordinator uses the information this system garners to make its drought classifications.

The 27 counties affected by the drought watch are Berks, Bradford, Cambria, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne, Westmoreland and Wyoming.