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Friday, July 09, 2010

Potential Drought Conditions

Pennsylvania DEP & Other Agencies Monitoring Potential Drought Conditions
No Statewide or Regional Declarations in Effect

HARRISBURG -- The Department of Environmental Protection and other state and federal agencies continue to monitor water and moisture levels throughout Pennsylvania to assess the severity of dry conditions that would signal the beginning of a drought.
Although much of the state saw very hot weather earlier this week and many areas have received little significant precipitation in recent weeks, no drought declarations are in effect at this time.
The department considers various indicators - precipitation deficits, surface water and ground water levels, soil moisture content, as well as reservoir levels and public water supply sources - when determining if the state is experiencing or entering drought conditions.

"We are experiencing dry conditions, particularly in the central and northeast regions of the state," said DEP Secretary John Hanger. "While we could certainly use some significant rainfall in the coming days and weeks, overall conditions are such that it has not been necessary to declare a drought watch anywhere in the commonwealth."

Pennsylvania's Drought Task Force is scheduled to meet July 21 to discuss conditions and provide input on possible drought declarations. Only the Governor can declare a drought emergency. The task force consists of members from DEP, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, United States Geological Survey, the National Weather Service, the state and U.S. departments of Agriculture, the Public Utility Commission, PennVEST, the Fish and Boat Commission, the Department of Conservations and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania State Police.

A drought watch is the lowest of three levels of drought status. It asks for a voluntary five percent reduction in water use by residents. The next stage, a drought warning, calls for a voluntary reduction of 10 percent to 15 percent. A drought emergency, the final stage, includes mandatory water use reductions of at least 15 percent. Pennsylvania’s last declared drought emergency was in 2002. Changes in drought status can be issued for specific counties or for the entire state.

"Although no declarations are currently in effect, this is certainly a good time to exhibit common sense when dealing with the dry conditions," Hanger said. "Everyone should be careful when outdoors and remember that acts of carelessness involving burning and discarded smoking materials can cause serious problems."
Drought information and water conservation tips can be found at www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: Drought.