Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of August 2015, Plus a Look at Drought Nationally

Here is the Virginia Water Central News Grouper’s monthly water-status report on precipitation, stream flow, and drought, as of the end of August 2015. T  he Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing the data and maps used in this post.  Icons for precipitation, stream flow, and drought are by George Wills of Blacksburg, Va. (  For previous monthly water status reports, please see this link: Please see this link:

Precipitation Icon by George WillsHere are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary (still needing verification) precipitation totals for August 2015 at 11 Virginia or near-Virginia locations, along with the normal for this month of the year at each location. Also shown are the precipitation totals at each location for the previous 12 months and the normal annual precipitation for each location. All values are in inches.

Location August 2015


Normal for Month Sept. 2014-Aug 2015 Precipitation


Normal Annual Precipitation
Blacksburg 4.09 3.59 40.89 40.89
Bluefield1 2.39 3.26 39.18 39.63
Bristol2 6.01 3.47 42.25 41.01
Charlottesville3 2.43 3.62 37.50 42.71
Danville 3.06 3.97 41.70 44.41
Lynchburg 1.98 3.26 35.48 41.57
Norfolk 1.85 5.52 51.00 46.53
Richmond 2.77 4.66 42.76 43.60
Roanoke 3.09 3.56 42.28 41.25
Wallops Island4 2.67 4.19 41.52 40.84
Washington-Dulles Airport5 1.09 3.53 37.14 41.54

Location notes
1 – The Bluefield location is the Mercer County, W. Va., airport, near the Va.-W.Va. state line.
2- The Bristol location Tri-Cities Airport in Tenn., about 20 miles from Bristol, Va./Tenn.
3 – The Charlottesville location is the (Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport.
4 – Wallops Island is in Accomack County.
5 – Washington-Dulles Airport is in Loudoun County.

Precipitation sources: Climate pages of the following National Weather Service Forecast Offices:
Blacksburg, Va. (;
Morristown, Tenn. (
Baltimore-Washington (; and
Wakefield, Va. (

The normal values used by the National Weather Service (NWS) in these provisional reports are based on the period from 1981 to 2010. The National Climatic Data Center released these normal values in July 2011. For information on the normal values, see the National Climatic Data Center Web page at

For graphs of precipitation, visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center (Chapel Hill, N.C) at, where you can find maps of total precipitation and percent of normal precipitation for the past 7, 30, 60, or 90 days; or the NWS’ Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service at for a map of precipitation nationwide or by state, with capability to show county boundaries, and archives available for specific days, months, or years. Shown below are the Southeast Regional Climate Center’s preliminary maps of the percent-of-normal precipitation for the previous 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, through August 31, 2015.

30 Day Precip Perc60 day precip perc90 day precip perc 

Stream flow icon by George Wills

According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at, monthly average stream flow values for August 2015 at 131 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal range at about 71% of gages, below normal at about 27%, and above normal at about 2%. The color-coded, flow-percentile map for this period is shown below. The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS to compared flows to historical records for the month are shown in the chart below the map.

Streams AugustKEEP on deskto - Stream flow code graph 

Drought Watch icon by George Wills


The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( for August 25, 2015, showed Virginia as having about 7% of its area as abnormally dry, located in several localities along the North Carolina border in southeastern Virginia. This was the first report of any drought in Virginia since the Drought Monitor for June 30, 2015. The Drought Monitor notes that it “focuses on broad-scale conditions [and] local conditions may vary.” Drought Monitor categories are as follows:
D0 = abnormally dry;
D1 = moderate drought;
D2 = severe drought;
D3 = extreme drought;
D4 = exceptional drought.

For comparison, here are Virginia ratings from previous Drought Monitors from about one month, two months, three months, and one year ago:
7/28/15 – drought-free;
6/30/15 – 13% abnormally dry;
5/26/15 – 32% abnormally dry;
8/26/14 – 9% abnormally dry.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent Drought Status Report on July 16, 2015. A link to the report, along with other current drought-status information, is available online at The next report is scheduled for September 2015. The Task Force’s reports typically include information from some or all of the following agencies: University of Virginia Climatology Office, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Virginia departments of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Health, and Environmental Quality.

The Drought Monitoring Task Force also produces a daily map rating drought-status indicators. Shown below is the map for August 31, 2015. The status-indicator abbreviations on that map are as follows: GW = groundwater levels, Prcp = precipitation deficits, Res – reservoir storage, and Flow = stream flow conditions. For each region of Virginia, the indicators are color coded for “normal,” “watch,” “warning,” or “emergency conditions.” Any given day’s current map and more information on drought status in Virginia are available the Task Force Web site listed above.

Drought Virginia Aug 31


More information on current groundwater levels in Virginia monitoring wells is available from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Information System, online at; and from the USGS Climate Response Network, online at (at that page, you can find a national map showing the status of groundwater monitoring wells compared to historical values).


 The August 25, 2015, U.S. Drought Monitor rated 49.2% of the United States (including all or parts of 44 states, plus Puerto Rico) as being abnormally dry or worse. It rated 15.1% of the country (including all or parts of 18 states, plus Puerto Rico), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4; the highest percentage in these categories reported by the Drought Monitor since it began in 2000 was 38.5% of the country during the week of August 7, 2012).

The nationwide percentages for abnormally dry or worse (D0-D4) and severe or worse (D2-D4) in the previous three months and one year ago were as follows:
7/28/15 – 44.2% abnormally dry or worse; 14.4% severe drought or worse;
6/30/15 – 41.7% abnormally dry or worse; 13.0% severe drought or worse;
5/26/15 – 46.4% abnormally dry or worse; 11.9% severe drought or worse;
8/26/14 – 39.9% abnormally dry or worse; 18.0% severe drought or worse.

In the following states, over 50% of the state was categorized by the 8/25/15 report as being in severe-or-worse drought.

California – 92% (with 71% in extreme or exceptional drought).  California has had over 80% of its area categorized in severe-or-worse drought every week since June 25, 2013, and the Golden State had 100% in those categories from May 13—July 29, 2014. California’s current drought began in late 2011 to early 2012. Here’s a link to an Associated Press story on how the drought has led to an increase in land subsidence, resulting in significant increased costs to roads and other infrastructure: California land quickly sinking in drought costs farmers, 8/20/15.

Nevada – 76% (with 38% in extreme or exceptional drought).  Nevada has had over 50% of its area in severe-or-worse drought since the week of March 27, 2012.

Oregon – 100% (with 67% in extreme drought).

Washington – almost 100% (with 85% in extreme drought).

Oregon and Washington have had 100% of their area (99.99% in the case of Washington) in severe-or-worse drought since the week of July 28, 2015.


For a look ahead, the National Weather Service/Climate Prediction Center’s “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” is available at Shown below is the outlook map available on September 1, 2015.

Drought Outlook US Aug

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