Pennsylvania Lifts Drought Watch for Eight Counties, Signaling Return to Normal Water Conditions

RainImage by Mylene

HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced the lifting of drought watch/warning declarations for the last eight counties in the state. Following a meeting of the Commonwealth Drought Task Force on March 6, 2024, Adams, Cameron, Clinton, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Westmoreland, and York counties have returned to a ‘Normal’ status.

This change comes after months of adequate precipitation that has restored many drought indicators back to normal levels and reduced long-term rainfall deficits. Public Water Suppliers, who had imposed restrictions during the drier summer and fall seasons, are now lifting these limitations as their water supplies recover.

While this is good news for the state, the DEP reminded residents that localized conditions may still require more stringent conservation efforts. Some water suppliers or municipalities might request residents to take extra steps to conserve water, especially in areas where recovery has been slower.

The DEP also offered some tips for conserving water at home, such as running dishwashers and washing machines less often and only with full loads, shortening shower times, checking for and repairing household leaks, installing low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets, and replacing older appliances with high-efficiency models.

The process of determining drought conditions is a complex one. The DEP assesses data from public water suppliers and four key indicators: precipitation, surface water flow in streams and rivers, groundwater levels, and soil moisture. The DEP Drought Coordinator monitors these indicators in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which maintains gauges in streams and wells across Pennsylvania.

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There are established normal ranges for all four indicators. The DEP makes drought status recommendations after evaluating departures from these ranges over periods of 3-12 months. These recommendations are then shared with state and federal agencies and other organizations that make up the Commonwealth Drought Task Force, which collectively determines drought declarations.

The lifting of the drought watch is a positive development for Pennsylvania, signaling a return to normal water conditions. However, the DEP’s emphasis on continued water conservation is a reminder of the importance of mindful water usage in maintaining these conditions.

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