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.

Current Drought Monitoring Task Force Report

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 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 via teleconference on Thursday, June 7, 2018 to discuss the status of drought monitoring and hydrologic conditions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Precipitation during May was well above normal across most of Virginia, with many locations receiving record rainfall amounts.  As a result, streamflows are normal to above normal across the Commonwealth, with well above normal flows in northern Virginia.  Groundwater levels in the Virginia Climate Response Network of observation wells rose as well, with record highs observed in 7 of the 22 network wells.  The most recent weekly U.S. Drought Monitor web page map for Virginia (released June 7, 2018) showed that, for the first week since June 20, 2017, no abnormally dry conditions existed in Virginia.

The DMTF discussed the removal of dry conditions across the state in response to abundant May rainfall.  The Task Force recommended lifting the existing Drought Watch Advisories in the Chowan, Middle James, Northern Piedmont, Northern Virginia, and Roanoke River drought evaluation regions.

Scheduling of the next Task Force meeting will depend upon a return of widespread abnormally dry 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

Current Drought Stages

The Drought Watch Advisories previously issued for the Chowan, Middle James, Northern Piedmont, Northern Virginia, and Roanoke River Drought Evaluation regions have been lifted

There are no Drought Advisories currently in effect. 

Current Drought Monitoring Task Force Report

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


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