Despite Wednesday’s rain and a harsh winter the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental (DEP) has placed 27 counties on a drought watch for low levels of groundwater.
“Fortunately we have had a significant amount of snowmelt. That does help, but specifically we’re dealing with low groundwater levels, and groundwater takes a little bit more time to recharge then say surface water would,” said DEP spokeswoman Amanda Witman.
A drought watch is the least severe of the 3 drought classifications. It calls for people to voluntarily reduce 5% of non-essential water consumption. People in the affected counties can cut back water usage by avoiding water flowing when brushing teeth, checking their house for leaks, and making sure washers and washing machines are only being run with full loads
It also means that large water consumers will be put on notice and begin planning for the possibility of reduced water supply.
The drought watch was caused in part by a very dry fall and low levels of precipitation in January and February with about 1-3 inches below average precipitation. Witman said the chance of this becoming a full drought is 50/50, and mostly depends on the weather.
The counties affected are Berks, Bradford, Cambria, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne, Westmoreland, and Wyoming.
The last time the DEP declared a drought was in July of 2012.