Fourteen Pennsylvania counties remain in drought emergency

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HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pa. Gov. Mark Schweiker recently lifted the drought emergency for six counties and restored 14 other counties to normal status.

Dauphin, Perry and Wayne counties have been upgraded to drought-watch status, which calls on residents to voluntarily conserve 5 percent of their daily water usage.

Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties have been upgraded to drought-warning status, which calls on residents to voluntarily conserve 10 percent to 15 percent of their daily water usage.

“Recent rains and water-conservation efforts have led to some improvement in water conditions in parts of the state,” Schweiker said.

Save water. Fourteen counties – Adams, Bedford, Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Delaware, Franklin, Fulton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Northampton, Schuylkill and York – remain in drought-emergency status and should continue to follow mandatory water restrictions on non-essential water use.

Fourteen counties – Bradford, Centre, Columbia, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union and Wyoming – have been removed from drought warning and watch status and are returned to normal status.

Schweiker first declared a drought emergency on Feb. 12 for 24 counties in response to dangerously low groundwater levels in South central and Eastern Pennsylvania. He extended the emergency for 20 counties May 8.

Very severe. A drought emergency, the third and most severe stage of the three drought declarations, imposes mandatory restrictions on non-essential water use and must be declared by the Governor.

A drought warning, the second stage of drought, calls for a 10 percent to 15 percent voluntary reduction in water consumption. A drought watch, the first and least severe stage, calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction of non-essential water use.

In a drought emergency, mandatory water-use restrictions include strict limitations on the watering of lawns, athletic fields, golf courses and the washing of automobiles; not serving water in eating places unless requested by the customer; and closing down of indoor and outdoor ornamental fountains, waterfalls, and ornamental pools unless they are needed to sustain aquatic life.

Long-term issue. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David E. Hess said that drought-emergency conditions have occurred in parts of Pennsylvania in five of the past seven years. He also noted that the State Water Plan has not been updated in more than 25 years.

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