Virginia Water Status Report as of the Beginning of January 2017, 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 beginning of January 2017.  The 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:


Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary (still needing verification) precipitation totals for December 2016 at 11 Virginia or near-Virginia locations, along with the “normal” (three-decade average) 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 annual precipitation normals for each location.  All values are in inches.

Location December 2016 Observed


Monthly Normal January 2016-

December 2016 Observed

Annual Normal
Blacksburg 3.09 2.95 42.04 40.89
Bluefield1 3.20 2.91 34.83 39.63
Bristol2 5.36 3.37 35.67 41.01
Charlottesville3 1.72 3.15 33.58 42.71
Danville 1.62 3.27 46.83 44.41
Lynchburg 3.10 3.24 42.50 41.57
Norfolk 2.54 3.26 68.86 46.53
Richmond 2.80 3.26 52.75 43.60
Roanoke 2.79 2.94 46.81 41.25
Wallops Island4 3.97 3.43 56.42 40.84
Washington-Dulles Airport5 2.36 2.96 35.33 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 January 2, 2017.



According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at, monthly average stream flow values for December 2016 at about 156 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal range at about 56% of gages, below normal at about 37%, and much below normal at about 7%.  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.


stream codes

An overall look at Virginia streamflow conditions is provided in the USGS WaterWatch summary plot of 7-day average streamflow conditions.  Below is the summary plot for 88 Virginia sites during the 45-day period ending January 1, 2017, accessed at on January 3, 2017.



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 weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( for January 3, 2017, showed about 70.9% of Virginia as “abnormally dry,” covering the western and central regions of the state, except for parts of several counties on the western and southwestern borders.  The January 3 report also showed about 15.4% of Virginia in “moderate drought” or worse, covering most of the New River basin, parts of the western Roanoke River basin and eastern Holston basin, and parts of several counties in the northern Piedmont.

Drought Monitor categories are as follows:
D0 = abnormally dry;
D1 = moderate drought;
D2 = severe drought;
D3 = extreme drought;
D4 = exceptional drought.

The Drought Monitor notes that it “focuses on broad-scale conditions [and] local conditions may vary.”

For comparison, here are Virginia ratings from previous Drought Monitors from about one month, two months, three months, and one year ago:
12/6/16 – 68.7% abnormally dry or worse, 27.7% moderate drought or worse, 0.8% severe drought;
11/1/16 – 28.9% abnormally dry or worse, 3.4% moderate drought;
10/4/16 – 13.5% abnormally dry or worse, 0.2% moderate drought;
1/5/16 – 0.01% abnormally dry.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent (as of 12/1/16) Drought Status Report on December 2, 2016.  A link to the report, along with other current drought-status information, is available online at  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 Task Force is next scheduled to meet on January 12, 2017.

The Drought Monitoring Task Force also produces a map rating drought-status indicators.  Shown below is the map for December 12, 2016, the most recent available as of January 4, 2017.  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.

The January 3, 2017, U.S. Drought Monitor rated 40.3% of the United States (including all or parts of 46 states) as being abnormally dry or worse.  The Drought Monitor rated about 7.2% of the country (including parts of 27 states), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4).  The highest percentage in the severe-or-worse categories reported by the Drought Monitor since it began in 2000 was 38.5% of the country for the week of August 7, 2012.

The nationwide percentages for abnormally dry or worse (categories D0-D4) and severe or worse (categories D2-D4) in the previous three months and one year ago were as follows:
12/6/16 – 47.3% abnormally dry or worse, 11.7% severe drought or worse;
11/1/16 – 41.6% abnormally dry or worse, 9.2% severe drought or worse;
10/4/16 – 36.6% abnormally dry or worse, 7.0% severe drought or worse;
1/5/16 – 28.1% abnormally dry or worse, 8.4% severe drought or worse.

In the following states, 50 percent or more of the state was rated by the January 3 Drought Monitor as in severe-or-worse drought:

California, 54%.  This severe-or-worse rating is the lowest for the Golden State since the week of June 11, 2013.  California’s current drought began in late 2011 to early 2012.
Connecticut, 83%.
Massachusetts, 69%.
Oklahoma, 56%.


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 January 3, 2017.


One response to “Virginia Water Status Report as of the Beginning of January 2017, Plus a Look at Drought Nationally

  1. @wateringpipeltd. we are working on tackling the issues raised in this report.

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