Northam issues drought watch advisory

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A statewide drought watch advisory has been issued for Virginia.

Governor Ralph Northam announced the advisory on Friday to increase awareness of current conditions, which are likely to precede a significant drought event.

According to a release, localities, water suppliers, self-supplies water users, and all citizens are encouraged to begin preparations for a potential drought.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a workgroup coordinated by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality that represents state and federal agencies, says the factors contributing to the advisory include low precipitation amounts across Virginia since July, low stream flows, and low groundwater levels.

“More than half of our Commonwealth is currently experiencing a water deficit, which can have lasting agricultural, economic, environmental impacts,” said Northam. “While water conservation activities during a drought watch are generally voluntary, we encourage localities and individuals across Virginia to heed this warning and take necessary steps to monitor their water usage.”

The next stage would be a drought warning, which indicates a significant drought event is imminent. If a warning is issued, water conservation and contingency plans that are in place or that were prepared during the watch would go into effect.

There are currently 36 localities that have issued open-air burn bans, including Louisa and Nelson counties.

The release says residents are encouraged to check with the Virginia Department of Forestry for the latest information on active burn bans and contact their locality for further information on outdoor burning restrictions.

There are several steps people can take now to help protect current water supplies including minimizing non-essential water use, reviewing or developing local water conservation and drought contingency plans, sharing information broadly, continuing to monitor the condition of public waterworks and self-supplied water systems, imposing water restrictions when consistent with local supply conditions, and aggressively pursuing leak detection and repair programs.

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