Clarion, Forest among 29 counties in drought watch

From staff reports

Clarion, Forest, Jefferson and Warren counties are among 29 counties that have been moved onto a drought-watch list by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Other counties on the list are Armstrong, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Cumberland, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Huntingdon, Indiana, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union and Wyoming.

Clinton and McKean counties, however, are now in a drought warning. They join Potter County, which was placed on the warning list last week.

Alicia Miller, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, last week warned the drought status for several counties, including those in northwestern Pennsylvania, would likely change.

Miller said the region is considered “abnormally dry,” a status that is the lowest of four levels in terms of drought severity. Venango County remains in that category.

Residents on drought watch are asked to reduce their individual water use 5% to 10%, or a reduction of 3 to 6 gallons of water per day.

Residents on drought warning are asked to reduce their individual water use 10% to 15%, based on a statewide average of 62 gallons per person per day. This means a reduction of 6 to 9 gallons a day.

“It’s going to take a lot of precipitation to get us out of these deficits over time. We are asking residents in these counties to use water wisely and follow simple water conservation tips to ease the demand for water,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said.

DEP is notifying all water suppliers in these counties of the need to monitor their supplies and be prepared by updating their drought contingency plans as necessary.

Varying localized conditions could lead water suppliers or municipalities to ask residents for more stringent conservation actions. Eighteen water suppliers in these counties have begun asking or requiring residents to reduce their water use.

Tips to reduce water use

– Run water only when necessary. Don’t let the faucet run while brushing your teeth or shaving.

– Shorten the time you let water run to warm up before showering.

– Use a bucket to catch water and reuse it to water plants.

– Run the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads.

– When watering your garden, be efficient and effective: Water in the evening or morning, and direct the water to the ground at the base of the plant, so you don’t waste water through evaporation.

– Water your lawn only if necessary. Apply no more than 1 inch of water per week (use an empty can to determine how long it takes to water 1 inch). Avoid watering on windy and hot days. This pattern will encourage healthier, deeper grass roots.

– Reuse old water from bird baths, vases or pet bowls to water plants.

– When mowing your lawn, set the blades at 2 to 3 inches high. Longer grass shades the soil, improving moisture retention. It also grows thicker and develops a deeper root system, so it can better survive drought.

– Check for household leaks. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water daily.

– Sweep your sidewalk, deck or driveway, rather than hose it off.

– Replace older appliances with high-efficiency, front-loading models that use about 30% less water and 40% to 50% less energy.

– Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets.