In response to existing conditions and to increase public awareness of the potential for a significant drought event , the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued a statewide drought watch advisory.

A drought watch advisory is being issued because drought watch indicators in the state’s Drought Assessment and Response Plan have been met. According to the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force , an interagency group representing state and federal agencies, the primary factors contributing to the declaration of the Drought Watch are:

  • Precipitation amounts since July 2019 are six to 12 inches below normal across much of the commonwealth.
  • Stream flows are lower than 75 to 95 percent of recorded October flows, indicating a moderate to severe hydrologic drought (a period of below-average water content in streams, aquifers, lakes and soils).
  • Groundwater levels in some observation wells are lower than 75 to 95 percent of previously recorded October levels. New record low water levels for October have been recorded in a long-term observation well located in Surry County.
  • Minimal rainfall combined with record-breaking high temperatures during September and early October have resulted in very dry soil moisture conditions and subsequent agricultural impacts.

DEQ is requesting all public water works and private sector water users to prepare for the onset of a drought event by developing or reviewing existing water conservation and drought response plans. Through the drought watch advisory, Virginia is encouraging localities, public and private water suppliers and self-supplied water users to voluntarily take these steps to help protect current water supplies:

  • Minimize nonessential water use.
  • Review existing or develop new local water conservation and drought contingency plans, and take conservation actions consistent with those plans.
  • Include water conservation information on local websites and distribute water conservation information as broadly as possible.
  •  Continue monitoring the condition of public waterworks and self-supplied water systems in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health.
  • Impose water use restrictions when consistent with local water supply conditions.
  • Aggressively pursue leak detection and repair programs.

In the Northern Virginia Drought Evaluation Region, the drought watch advisory applies to public or private water supplies that use groundwater or that withdraw water directly from tributaries of the Potomac River in Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Prince William counties, and the Cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.

The next stage after a drought watch is a “drought warning,” which is issued if
conditions warrant. Drought warning responses are required when the onset of a significant drought event is imminent. Water conservation and contingency plans that are already in place or have been prepared during a drought watch stage would begin to be implemented. In accordance with the commonwealth’s Drought Assessment and Response Plan, water conservation activities at this Drought Watch stage are generally voluntary. This does not preclude localities issuing mandatory restrictions if appropriate.

Statewide information on the current drought status is available on the DEQ website .