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Elk County added to drought watch

After a meeting of the Commonwealth Drought Task Force, the state Department of Environmental Protection has moved Potter County to drought warning status and added three counties — Elk, Lycoming, and Tioga — to drought watch.

There are now 18 counties on drought watch: Armstrong, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Fayette, Huntingdon, Indiana, Juniata, Lycoming, McKean, Mifflin, Perry, and Tioga.

Residents on drought watch are asked to reduce their individual water use by between 5% and 10t% based on a statewide average of 62 gallons per person per day. This means a reduction of three to six gallons of water per day.

Potter County residents are asked to reduce their individual water use by between 10% and 15%, or by six to nine gallons a day.

“We’re asking residents in these counties to use water wisely and follow simple water conservation tips to ease the demand for water,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.

There are many ways to reduce water use around the house and yard, including:

¯ Run water only when necessary. Don’t let the faucet run while brushing teeth or shaving. Shorten the time water warms up before showering. Use a bucket to catch the water and reuse it to water plants.

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

¯ When watering a garden, be efficient. Water in the evening or morning, and direct the water to the ground at the base of the plant, so water isn’t wasted through evaporation.

¯ Those who water their lawn should do so only when necessary, and avoid watering on windy and hot days. Apply no more than 1 inch of water per week (use an empty can to determine how long it takes to water 1 inch). This pattern will encourage more healthy, deep grass roots. Over-watering is wasteful, encourages fungal growth and disease, and results in shallow, compacted root systems that are more susceptible to drought.

¯ Re-use old water from bird baths, vases, or pet bowls to water plants.

¯ When mowing a lawn, set the blades to 2-3 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. For example, a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water daily.

¯ Sweep a sidewalk, deck, or driveway, rather than hosing it off.

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

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

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 may lead water suppliers or municipalities to ask residents for more stringent conservation actions by residents. Sixteen water suppliers in these counties have begun asking or requiring residents to reduce their water use.

DEP makes drought watch, warning, or emergency declaration recommendations based on four numeric indicators. The agency gets stream flow and groundwater level data from a statewide network of gauges maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey.

In addition, DEP monitors precipitation and soil moisture. DEP also factors in information it receives from public water suppliers.

There are normal ranges for all four indicators, and DEP makes its drought declaration recommendations after assessing the departures from these normal ranges for all indicators for periods of 3-12 months. Declarations are not based on one indicator alone.

A drought emergency has not been declared for any county.

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