DEQ Declares Drought Watch

Published 4:31 pm Tuesday, July 31, 2012

FARMVILLE – The Town of Farmville wants residents to voluntarily restrict their water use following the declaration by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) of a Drought Watch for the Appomattox River.

“We're under a drought watch, for the Appomattox (River),” Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates said, shortly after receiving the notification by phone from DEQ late Thursday afternoon.

The declaration is part of Virginia's new statewide Drought Management Plan-a Drought Warning and Drought Emergency are the next two stages in severity.

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Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland are included in the Drought Watch for the Appomattox River, as is Appomattox County.

When DEQ made the declaration, less than an inch of rain had fallen in Farmville this month. Normally, over four inches of rain falls in July.

The precipitation deficit for the year is over 10 inches, according to data provided by WFLO, the National Weather Service's official Cooperative Observer.

The size of the river has shrunk significantly and some area streams have dried up entirely. Town officials are hopeful sufficient rainfall will replenish the river and its contributing streams before DEQ issues the next monitoring report during the second week of August.

“They've got several stages they go through. I guess it's like a tornado watch. It's triggered by the flow in the Appomattox,” Spates explained.

According to DEQ's website, “Drought Watch responses are generally responses that are intended to increase awareness in the public and private sector to climatic conditions that are likely to precede the occurrence of a significant drought event. During this drought stage, the primary activities that are suggested are to prepare for the onset of a drought event. It is unlikely that significant water use reductions will occur at this stage, although it is possible that the increased public awareness of water conservation activities may reduce water use up to five percent.”

Recommended responses for a Drought Watch, DEQ continues, include “review and be prepared to implement Drought Response and Contingency Plans at the appropriate time. Participate, as appropriate, in regional and local coordination for the management of water resources. Stay informed on drought conditions and advisories.”

Spates, noting the Drought Watch information, said, “Everything that's in there that they require us to do we've been doing anyway.

“It doesn't really require, and in our case it doesn't require any kind of conservation measures, but we'll probably, if it continues, maybe the first part of next week put in some voluntary measures,” he said on Thursday.

The voluntary water restrictions were announced Monday afternoon:

Operate washing machines and dishwashers only when full.

Don't leave the tap running while washing dishes.

Check for and repair toilet and faucet leaks.

Consider taking a shower instead of a bath.

Turn off water while shaving or brushing teeth.

Water lawns and outdoor plants in the late evening or early morning and only if absolutely necessary.

Postpone installing new outdoor plants until the drought is over.

Don't leave the hose running while washing your vehicle and only wash your vehicle if absolutely necessary.

Sweep decks, sidewalks and driveways with a broom rather than hosing them down.

Spates said on Thursday that the flow in the Appomattox is currently in excess of the Town's daily needs.

“It's surprising, ” he said, when asked about the river's flow, “it went up after that last rain, I think it was a little over seven and a half (million gallons a day) and now it's back to six and a half million gallons a day,” he said.

The town, meanwhile, is “using less than a million” gallons of water a day out of its water treatment plant.

The Town has emergency wells in place and also has Mottley Lake, which can release water into the Appomattox River upstream of the water treatment plant.

The wells have been running, to make sure they work, but are so far not supplementing the river's ability to provide Farmville with enough water to any appreciable degree.

“I've got the wells open,” the town manager said, explaining, “we're just running the wells just for the sake of running them.

“Very little,” he answered, when asked how much water was being pumped up to the water treatment plant. “Not enough to amount to anything. We wanted to test them to make sure everything was working fine.”

Equipment at Mottley Lake is also being prepared for the potential release of water.

“We're just getting everything hooked up at Mottley Lake in case we need it,” Spates said Monday.

“And we're looking at some other things, too.”