Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam placed the entire state under a drought watch on Friday, advising state water suppliers and residents to review their plans for water conservation as a precaution if recent dry weather persists.
The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force said lower-than-average rainfall since July, record-breaking high temperatures and receding groundwater levels in wells have all contributed to a dry spell across the state.
It doesn’t qualify as a significant drought just yet, but Virginia officials told residents that now is a good time to prepare for any eventuality.
“More than half of our Commonwealth is currently experiencing a water deficit, which can have lasting agricultural, economic, environmental impacts,” Northam said in a news release Friday morning.
“While water conservation activities during a drought watch are generally voluntary, we encourage localities and individuals across Virginia to heed this warning and take necessary steps to monitor their water usage.”
The state warned any dry conditions and hot weather can lead to escalated fire dangers. The Virginia Department of Forestry had issued open air burn bans for 36 localities as of Friday, mostly in the state’s central and southwest regions and along the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The state encourages local water suppliers and residents to take the following, voluntary steps during the drought watch:
- Minimize nonessential water use.
- Review or develop new local water conservation and drought contingency plans and take actions consistent with those plans.
- Share information as broadly as possible.
- Continue monitoring the condition of public waterworks and self-supplied water systems in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health.
- Impose water restrictions when consistent with local water supply conditions.
- Aggressively pursue leak detection and repair programs.
The next stage after a drought watch if conditions worsen is a warning. Water conservation plans assembled during the watch period would be implemented and made mandatory at that point.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, a joint partnership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, classified most of Virginia as either abnormally dry or already under a moderate drought.
It said temperatures of up to three degrees above normal are expected to continue in much of the mid-Atlantic for the next week, with long-range forecasts suggesting some rain could be on the horizon beyond seven days.