Drought emergency extended for Franklin County, Pa.

August 12, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Record low water levels have prompted Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker to extend the drought emergency in 14 counties in South-Central Pennsylvania, including Franklin County.

"I must stress that the drought is not over and that 14 counties remain in a drought emergency," Schweiker said Friday. "I urge residents in the drought emergency counties to continue conserving water whenever and wherever possible."

He said record and near-record low stream flows were recorded last week in four counties under the emergency declaration. They did not include any creeks in Franklin County, which has been under the drought emergency since February.


Schweiker did not say how long the emergency status was extended.

"With the little bit of rain we have gotten in May and June, we have held our own for a month," Bruce McNew, assistant water superintendent for Chambersburg, Pa., said last week. "We are now starting to decrease and go down a little every day. We need rain very bad."

Last week, Chambersburg's Long Pine Reservoir was 9 feet, 9 inches below the spillway, which reached a record low of 19 feet below this spring.

In Waynesboro, Pa., the reservoir is dropping more than an inch a day, according to S. Leiter Pryor, head of public utilities for Waynesboro, Pa.

"I've never seen springs and small feeder streams this low. When we get some rain, the levels come up for a day and drop off again because there is no groundwater recharge," Pryor said last week.

He is already concerned about what a wintertime drought could mean to the reservoir.

"After the ground freezes, there is not much runoff in the winter, and I foresee the reservoir dropping off dramatically again," he said.

After reaching a record low of 15 feet, 9 inches below the spillway this spring, water began flowing over again briefly, but is now 33 inches below, according to Pryor.

The 14 counties under the drought emergency include Adams, Bedford, Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Delaware, Franklin, Fulton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Northampton, Schuylkill and York. Residents and businesses in those counties should follow mandatory water restrictions and reduce water use by 15 percent.

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 indoor and outdoor ornamental fountains, waterfalls and ornamental pools unless they are needed to sustain aquatic life.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David E. Hess said the drought underscores the need for the state to address long-term water resources issues.

"We don't have a full-time program to evaluate the status of Pennsylvania's water resources and promote the efficient use of water," Hess said in a statement. "We need to develop long-term water-use strategies as part of a comprehensive approach to better manage our precious water resources."

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