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 or designee) 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 steps listed below are suggested to prepare for the onset of a drought event:

  • Minimize nonessential water use,
  • Review existing or develop new local water conservation and drought contingency plans and take conservation actions consistent with those plans,
  • Include water conservation information on local websites and distribute water conservation 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 use restrictions when consistent with local water supply conditions, and
  • Aggressively pursue leak detection and repair programs.

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%.  During this drought stage, the steps listed below are encouraged to help protect current water supplies:

  • Minimize nonessential water use, including the elimination of non-essential flushing of water lines
  • Initiate voluntary water conservation requirements contained in drought water conservation and contingency plans
  • Review existing or develop new local water conservation and drought contingency plans and take conservation actions consistent with those plans.
  • Include water conservation information on local websites and distribute water conservation 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 mandatory water use restrictions if and when consistent with local water supply conditions
  • Continue to aggressively pursue leak detection and repair programs

Drought emergency responses are generally responses that are required during the height of a very severe or extreme 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%.  The following non-essential water uses are discouraged and may be prohibited during such an event:

  • unrestricted irrigation of lawns, golf courses, and athletic fields
  • washing of paved surfaces such as streets, roads, sidewalks, driveways, garages, parking areas, tennis courts and patios
  • use of water for washing or cleaning mobile equipment, including autos, trucks, trailers, and boats
  • use of water for the operation of ornamental fountains, artificial waterfalls, misting machines, and reflecting pools
  • use of water to fill up and top off outdoor swimming pools
  • serving water in restaurants, clubs, or eating-places unless requested by the customer

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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