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Rains don’t remove county from drought watch list

Recent rains haven’t been enough to remove Warren County from a drought watch.

Almost half of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are under at least a drought watch.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a release confirming that 29 counties remain in a drought watch, three under a drought warning, and one county – Columbia — was added to the watch list.

Warren County has been on the drought watch list since Wednesday, Sept. 30.

McKean, Potter, and Clinton counties are under a warning.

Data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows between three and four inches of rain have fallen at points in Warren County since Oct. 1.

“Although there’s been precipitation in some areas, and some indicators are beginning to improve in some counties, we still have a ways to go to get out of these deficits,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “We’re asking consumers in these counties to use water wisely and follow simple water conservation tips to ease the demand for water.”

Tips are available through DEP and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) websites.

DEP is asking consumers in drought watch counties to reduce their consumption by five to 10 percent – or using three to six fewer gallons of water per day. In warning counties, the request is a reduction of 10 to 15 percent – six to nine gallons per person per day.

“DEP is notifying water suppliers in these counties of the need to monitor their supplies and be prepared by updating their drought contingency plans as necessary,” according to a DEP release. “Varying localized conditions may lead water suppliers or municipalities to ask residents for more stringent conservation actions by residents.”

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 status 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. For details on indicator monitoring, see this fact sheet: Drought Management in Pennsylvania.

DEP shares these data and its recommendations with other state and federal agency personnel who make up the Commonwealth Drought Task Force. Drought watch and warning declarations are determined by DEP, with the concurrence of the task force. Drought emergency declarations follow the same process, with final approval by the Governor.

The next Drought Task Force meeting will be held in approximately two weeks.

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