Drought Monitoring and Response in Virginia

Drought monitoring, evaluation and response in the Commonwealth of Virginia are guided by the Virginia Drought Assessment and Response Plan.  The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force (DMTF) is responsible for monitoring drought conditions and making recommendations for Drought Stage declarations.  The DMTF uses four initial indicators to gauge the presence and severity of hydrologic drought:  groundwater levels, precipitation deficits, streamflow, and reservoir storage.  The Commonwealth is divided into thirteen Drought Evaluation Regions.  

The Current Drought Conditions Map displays the current status of each of these indicators for each region.

Most recent Drought Monitoring Task Force Report

Current Drought Stages

The Drought Watch Advisory issued on October 11, 2019 has been lifted.  The lifting of this advisory includes all 13 drought evaluation regions across the Commonwealth.

Most Recent Drought Monitoring Task Force Report

News Release

Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force

The Drought Monitoring Task Force (DMTF) is an interagency group of technical representatives from state and federal agencies responsible for monitoring natural resource conditions and the effects of drought on various segments of society. The Task Force meets as needed to assess conditions and make recommendations regarding drought status. The Task Force periodically releases Drought Status Reports summarizing drought conditions in the Commonwealth.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force (DMTF) met on Thursday, October 31, 2019 to discuss the status of drought monitoring and hydrologic conditions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Recent above-normal rainfall improved drought conditions across the Commonwealth, increasing soil moisture, reducing precipitation deficits and wildfire potential, and helping to mitigate drought impacts to agriculture. 

Seven-day average stream flows returned to the normal range (above the 25th percentile) across all of Virginia.  Groundwater levels in nearly all observation wells (17 out of 22) in the Virginia Climate Response Network were within the normal range.   Of the five observation wells with levels below normal, four were indicating rising water levels.  The National Weather Service Monthly Drought Outlook (released October 31, 2019) indicated a likelihood for drought removal in Virginia during November, 2019.

The Task Force discussed the drought indicators identified by the Virginia Drought Assessment and Response Plan, including the hydrologic indicators described above.  The consensus of the Task Force was to recommend the removal of the statewide drought watch advisory that was issued on October 11, 2019.

The DMTF did not schedule a subsequent meeting, but will continue to monitor drought indicators.  A meeting of the DMTF will be scheduled if needed, depending upon drought conditions.

Drought Stages

The Drought Monitoring Task Force can make recommendations for declaring four Drought Stages in order of increasing severity: Normal, Watch, Warning and Emergency. The four initial hydrologic indicators provide a framework for the DMTF to use when preparing recommendations regarding Drought Stage declarations. Each indicator is assigned thresholds with respect to stage determination. When the drought indicator thresholds are exceeded within one or more Drought Evaluation Regions, the DMTF may, after evaluating all other drought information, make a recommendation to the Virginia Drought Coordinator to declare a particular Drought Stage for that area. Each Drought Stage involves a list of response activities that are generally initiated when a specific Drought Stage declaration is made.

Drought Watch

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 5%.

Recommended responses for a Drought Watch

Drought Warning

Drought warning responses are generally responses that are required when the onset of a significant drought event is imminent. Water conservation and contingency plans that have been prepared during a drought watch stage would begin to be implemented. From the perspective of the Commonwealth, water conservation activities at this stage would generally be voluntary. Voluntary water conservation activities generally result in reductions in water use of 5-10%.

Recommended responses for a Drought Warning

Drought Emergency

Drought emergency responses are generally responses that are required during the height of a significant drought event. During these times, it is likely that some water supplies will not supply the amount of water needed by all users and non-essential uses of water should be eliminated. Mandatory water conservation requirements contained in water conservation and contingency plans should be initiated at this stage. Mandatory water conservation activities generally result in water use reductions of 10-15%.

Recommended responses for a Drought Emergency

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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