Virginia Under Statewide Drought Watch

July 14, 2010

A drought watch has been issued for Virginia as a long hot, dry spell has stunted crops, heightened the threat of wildfires and drawn down reservoirs.

The watch issued Wednesday by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is intended to increase awareness of a possible drought as the state heads into the statistically driest months of the year.

The department is urging voluntary measures statewide to protect
water supplies.

Recent rains have done little to ease parched conditions. Among the primary factors leading to the watch:

- Eight-six percent of the state is experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, as defined by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

- Most of Virginia has recorded below-normal precipitation in the last 60 days; short-term forecasts do not indicate a change in that pattern.

- Stream monitoring stations show water flows below normal ranges, particularly in southeast and central Virginia.

- Wildfire conditions are at levels normally seen much later in the summer months. Twenty localities already have issued burning bans.

- Large reservoirs such as Lake Moomaw, Smith Mountain Lake, Kerr Reservoir and Philpott Reservoir have been slowly declining since June.

Virginia growers have been especially hard hit by the scorching temperatures and dry conditions. The state commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the early arrival of hot, dry conditions has been difficult to overcome.

"Normally, if you have a late drought, your crops are a little better along," Matthew J. Lohr said. "It's been weeks since we've had measurable rain."

Growers who usually can depend on two hay cuts a season are looking at one now, meaning they may have to thin herds if they can't store enough for the winter months.

Lohr said Virginia needs a steady drenching of rain to salvage
some crops.

While there is no widespread reports of threatened public water supplies, the DEQ is urging localities, public water suppliers and others to enact preservation measures.

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