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On behalf of Pa. Gov. Mark Schweiker, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary David E. Hess, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Delaware River Basin Commission urged Pennsylvanians to continue conserving water to reduce the demand on shrinking water supplies due to the worsening drought.
"With the flow in parts of the Susquehanna and Schuylkill rivers and many other tributaries declining to seasonal record-low levels, we are encouraging everyone to be extra careful in conserving water any way they can," Hess said. "Additionally, DEP has been in contact with numerous public-water suppliers to monitor the status of drinking-water supplies across the Commonwealth."
With groundwater also reaching record or near-record lows in some areas, Schweiker extended the drought emergency on August 9 in 14 counties across southcentral and southeastern Pennsylvania and added seven counties to drought-watch status.
The 14 counties remaining in drought-emergency status -- Adams, Bedford, Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Delaware, Franklin, Fulton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Northampton, Schuylkill and York -- should continue to follow mandatory water restrictions and reduce water use by 15 percent.
Gov. Schweiker first declared a drought emergency on Feb. 12 for 24 counties in response to dangerously low groundwater levels. On May 8, the number of drought-emergency counties was down to 20. On June 14, the number of drought-emergency counties was dropped to 14.
"We're in the midst of the hottest, driest part of the summer, and there seems to be no relief in sight for the continued stresses on our water supplies and the environment in the lower Susquehanna region," said Paul Swartz, executive director of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. "Given that a high percentage of the Susquehanna Basin's homeowners, public-water suppliers and industries rely on groundwater sources, we all need to be very mindful of this continuing problem."
Carol R. Collier, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission, said, "Reservoir storage in the Delaware River Basin has been dropping steadily since the beginning of the month. Fortunately because of the commission's drought-management strategies, there is still enough water to make releases into the larger rivers and streams to meet the demand of downstream users and to protect aquatic life.
"However, smaller streams and groundwater levels are increasingly stressed. We each need to do our part to reduce excessive uses of water so our dwindling supplies will last as long as possible. Be water wise, be creative -- water conservation should be a lifelong habit."
Outdoor water conservation tips for nonessential water uses include
Not watering lawns unless newly seeded (grass often goes dormant -- not dead -- during dry conditions);
Limiting vehicle washing activities;
Sweeping sidewalks and driveways, rather than washing them;
Planting more drought-tolerant vegetation and using mulch to retain moisture; and
Covering pools and spas when not in use to reduce evaporation.
Indoor water conservation tips for nonessential water uses include
Repairing leaking toilets;
Replacing older toilets that use more water with newer, low-consumption toilets;
Repairing leaking and dripping faucets;
Taking shorter showers;
Using washing machines and dishwashers only when loads are full;
Not running water continuously while shaving, brushing teeth or washing dishes by hand;
Installing new shower heads and sink faucets equipped with water-saving devices such as aerators or spray taps; and
Refrigerating tap water to avoid running the faucet waiting for cold water.
Questions about required water conservation measures can be answered by calling local water suppliers; by visiting the PA PowerPort at www.state.pa.us, PA Keyword "drought"; or by calling DEP's drought information hotline at 1-888-457-6653.