Dry weather keeps water supplies low

Areas that saw their water supplies replenished during the rainy weeks of May and June are once again seeing deficits.

Areas that saw their water supplies replenished during the rainy weeks of May and June are once again seeing deficits.

August 06, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

While a brief rain shower in Chambersburg, Pa., sent some diving for cover under umbrellas and store awnings, Franklin County will need a lot more than the 0.42 inches that fell Monday afternoon to pull it out of its current drought.

"It isn't going to take an afternoon shower. We need some substantial rains," said Phil Tarquino, chairman of the Franklin County Drought Task Force.

The county is about 71/2 inches below the average rainfall for the year, said Jerry Ashway, a Chambersburg-area weather watcher.

Municipalities that saw their reservoirs replenished during the rainy weeks of May and early June say they are again seeing deficits.


In Mont Alto, Pa., where the borough relies on a well for its water, officials worry about what will happen when students at Penn State Mont Alto return for the fall semester later this month.

The groundwater level is dropping at a rate of 1 foot per week, said Ed Nunemaker, water works operator and maintenance supervisor.

"The concern in town is on Aug. 27, Penn State University comes back. We supply two dormitories," he said. "We're holding our own, but we don't know what will happen when they come back."

He said the borough is making alternate arrangements to haul in water and is lining up permits to begin drilling a new well next week.

A second well that was two years in the works is not operational because of a layer of clay and shale.

"We don't have time to fool with it, so we will drill another well," Nunemaker said.

In Chambersburg, the Long Pine Reservoir is down 9 feet, 9 inches from the spillway, said Assistant Water Superintendent Bruce McNew.

That is about 65 percent capacity and a 281-day supply of water even without additional rain, he said.

S. Leiter Pryor, head of public utilities for Waynesboro, said the borough's reservoir is down 33 inches after levels rebounded earlier this summer.

"There is a lot of summer left and it is a major concern," he said. "We are dropping at a quicker rate because streams feeding the reservoir are dry."

While experiencing different difficulties, the officials agree the region is in uncharted territory and the only way out of the drought is serious rains for several weeks or months.

"There are streams drying up people have never seen dry before," Nunemaker said.

It's as much the heat as it is the drought that is affecting the county's dairy farmers, said Philip Wagner, dairy extension agent for the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Chambersburg.

"Heat like this causes a decrease in milk production," Wagner said. "Most dairy farmers are doing everything they can to keep cows comfortable. Milk production is taking a hit, and it varies from farm to farm."

Yields in corn, hay and soybean crops are down and apples and peaches are also smaller, he said.

"It will be a smaller crop in general. It should be good quality, there just isn't as much of it," Wagner said.

Franklin County has been under a drought emergency order since February, and residents are asked to conserve 10 percent to 15 percent of their daily water usage.

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