Responses to Drought Stage Declarations

When the Drought Indicator thresholds are exceeded within one or more Drought Evaluation Regions, the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force (DMTF) may, after evaluating all other drought information, make a recommendation to the Virginia Drought Coordinator (the Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources) 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 responses are intended to increase awareness in the public and private sector of 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%.

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%.

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%.

Drought Planning and Conservation

Water sources used by public waterworks and self-supplied water users vary widely across Virginia.  Water conservation requirements for water users whose only source of supply is a free-flowing stream with no significant storage will likely be different than the requirements for a water user who relies entirely on a reservoir system for water supply.  In general, water supplies that rely on sources with significant storage (reservoir and groundwater-based systems) will realize greater benefits from water conservation activities initiated early in a drought cycle when compared to supplies that rely solely upon free-flowing streams.  It is likely that individual private well users, especially those who rely on shallow water table wells, will receive the largest benefit from their early individual initiation of water conservation activities.


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

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