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Drought watch issued

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a drought watch last Wednesday for counties in the Heart of Virginia, including Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland.

A news release from the DEQ cites that the drought watch advisory “is intended to increase awareness of conditions that are likely to precede a significant drought event and to facilitate preparation for a drought.”

Wade Bartlett

The release cites that precipitation totals have been less than 75 percent of normal over the past 90 days and less than 25 percent of normal over the last 30 days across a good portion of the areas covered by the Middle James, Roanoke River and Shenandoah regions, according to findings from the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force. The release and task force cite that stream flows are “lower than 75 percent to 95 percent of recorded flows, indicating a moderate to severe hydrologic drought – a period of below-average water content in streams, aquifers, lakes and soils.”

Groundwater levels have also been lower than 75 percent to 95 percent compared with recorded levels from the previously recorded September and October levels, the release cites.

Area officials say they are investigating the area and monitoring water levels for potential drought.

Mike Markley, utilities director with Buckingham County said the county has been monitoring reservoir levels in the county since drought had first been reported.

“The water level has remained above the overflow the entire time and after the rain the reservoir level is now 4.37 inches above the overflow,” Markley said. “We will continue to monitor this level, but at this time we feel like we are OK.”

Wade Bartlett, county administrator with Prince Edward County said he had spoken to farmers earlier in the week, who cited that due to recent rain in the area that they have seen better conditions than had been present before. He said that conditions had been worse in the summer, in July and August, and had created a slight impact to agriculture in the area.

He noted the county does not have a public water supply, and that the majority of citizens use wells.

“Right now, there has been no adverse effects in Prince Edward County,” Bartlett said.

Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates said the town’s water supply comes from the Appomattox River and is processed at a nearby water plant.

“We still have to monitor the river and make sure that everything is OK, but right now we are in pretty good shape,” Spates said. “We expect to remain so.”

Bill Hayden with the DEQ’s public affairs and media relations department said representatives evaluate water and drought conditions throughout the state. Watches differ from warnings, he said, noting that warnings are issued when drought conditions have progressed in an area.

“Watches are to put people on notice that the conditions are there for a drought to develop quickly,” Hayden said.

Hayden noted a list of actions businesses and residents can take to conserve water, including reducing or eliminating lawn watering and conserving water indoors while washing dishes.

“Conserving water is always a good idea, even if we’re not in a drought condition,” Hayden said.