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Drought watches, warnings issued across Virginia

The drought indicator map, as of June 24, 2024
Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality
The drought indicator map, as of June 24, 2024

Nearly all of Virginia is now under a drought watch. The Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia are subject to a drought warning.

The state Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force issued the updates Monday.

Stream flows across the state are at low levels, and groundwater levels in the northern, central and eastern parts of the state are also declining.

DEQ says it’s working with local governments to ensure drought response plans are being implemented. Officials also encourage all Virginians to minimize water use and repair leaks.

Here is the complete announcement:

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), in coordination with the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, has issued a drought warning advisory to include 12 counties and a drought watch advisory for 95 counties and cities. All regions within the Commonwealth are affected. Precipitation deficits in combination with increased temperatures have resulted in rapid intensification of drought throughout the majority of the Commonwealth with substantial below-normal observations noted within the Northern Virginia and Shenandoah drought evaluation regions.

A drought warning advisory indicates a significant drought is imminent and is in effect for the Shenandoah region, which includes Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Frederick, Page, Warren, and Clarke counties, and for the Northern Virginia Region which includes Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington, and Fairfax counties.

A drought watch advisory is intended to help Virginians prepare for a potential drought, and has been declared for the following areas:

  • Big Sandy: Lee, Wise, Buchanan, Dickenson, Scott, Russell, Tazewell, Washington, and Smyth counties  
  • Chowan: Lunenburg, Nottoway, Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Greensville, Sussex, Prince George, Southampton, and Surry counties  
  • Eastern Shore: Accomack and Northampton counties  
  • New River: Grayson, Wythe, Bland, Carroll, Floyd, Pulaski, Giles, and Montgomery counties  
  • Northern Coastal Plain: Caroline, King George, King William, King and Queen, Essex, Richmond, Westmoreland, Gloucester, Mathews, Middlesex, Lancaster, and Northumberland counties  
  • Northern Piedmont: Greene, Madison, Rappahannock, Orange, Culpeper, Louisa, Spotsylvania, and Stafford counties 
  • Middle James: Amherst, Lynchburg, Nelson, Albemarle, Appomattox, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Prince Edward, Cumberland, Goochland, Amelia, Powhatan, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Hanover counties and the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, Hopewell, and Colonial Heights 
  • Roanoke River: Patrick, Franklin, Roanoke, Henry, Bedford, Pittsylvania, Campbell, Halifax, Charlotte, and Mecklenburg counties  
  • Southeast Virginia: Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, and Norfolk  
  • Upper James: Craig, Alleghany, Bath, Highland, Botetourt, and Rockbridge counties  
  • York-James: Hampton, Newport News, James City, York, Charles City, and New Kent counties  

Several factors have contributed to the current drought watch and warning advisories in the affected regions. Stream flows throughout the Commonwealth are currently at or below the 25th percentile of normal values for all 13 drought evaluation regions. Groundwater levels for monitoring wells in the Climate Response Network have shown continued declines within the northern, central, and eastern portions of the state. Five regions are currently below the 25th percentile including the Big Sandy, Northern Coastal Plain, Northern Piedmont, Upper James, and Southeast Virginia. Levels are also currently below the 5th percentile for five drought evaluation regions including New River, Northern Virginia, Shenandoah, Roanoke, and York James. Storage at major water supply reservoirs throughout Virginia remain within normal ranges at this time.
DEQ is working with local governments, public water works, and water users in the affected areas to ensure that conservation and drought response plans and ordinances are followed. All Virginians are encouraged to protect water supplies by minimizing water use, monitoring drought conditions, and detecting and repairing leaks.

See the current drought status on the DEQ website.

David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.