Low river flow prompts Strasburg drought watch

Lower flows on the Shenandoah River prompted Strasburg to declare a drought watch Tuesday.

By issuing the watch, the town asked people to limit how much water they use indoors and outside. The request to conserve water is voluntary, not mandatory.

Strasburg issued its last drought watch in October, Assistant Town Manager Jay McKinley noted. But new regulations imposed on Strasburg’s water treatment plant could mean more drought watches for the town, McKinley said.

The town declared a drought watch condition in accordance with its Virginia Water Protection withdrawal permit issued by the Department of Environmental Quality and the provisions in the Northern Shenandoah Valley Water Supply Plan. The drought watch condition kicks in when the river flow levels fall below a 7-day, moving average of 175 cubic feet per second. As of Tuesday, the 7-day average dropped to 173 cubic feet per second, according to information from the town.

“Moving forward, because of these lower limits that’s been applied to this new intake permit at the water plant, I honestly think we’ll probably be hitting it probably every summer,” McKinley said. “I mean what DEQ has done is they’ve taken a holistic view on the whole watershed and they’re just trying to make sure each town only takes out what they should.”

The DEQ permit allows the town to draw no more than 2.5 million gallons of water from the river per day.

Heavy rains from recent storms did not help raise the river flow, McKinley said. The water treatment plant recorded 0.4 inches of rain Monday, he noted.

“The problem is with the 7-day, moving average a one-day jump in flow’s not going to help you,” McKinley said. “It’s going to take seven days of good flow to get you back up to 175 [cubic feet per second].”

Residents can cut back on indoor water use by taking the following actions:
• Run the dishwater only when full
• Install faucet aerators, low-flow shower heads and efficient toilets
• Avoid running water just to get it cold and keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator
• Minimize use of garbage disposals
• Limit showers to five to 10 minutes per day per person
• Wrap hot water heater and pipes with insulating material

Officials recommend water users to take the following steps to reduce outside water consumption:
• Mow lawns to 2 inches or more and leave clippings
• Use mulch around plants to reduce evaporation
• Aerate lawn to reduce evaporation
• Avoid over-fertilizing the lawn and use fertilizers that contain slow‐release, water‐insoluble forms of nitrogen
• Place rain barrels under gutter downspouts to collect water for plants, car washing or general cleaning projects
• Plant native or dry‐loving plants in landscaping
• Avoid washing cars and other vehicles

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com