Category Archives: Water Supply

California’s Long-term Drought Nearly Over in April 2017 as Governor Withdraws State of Emergency in All But Four Counties – A Quick Summary and Sources of Information

[The April 13, 2017, post adds to and updates information posted in February 2014, July 2014, and May 2015.]

It’s an event of national significance when persistent and severe drought afflicts California, the nation’s third largest state in land area and largest in population (with over 37 million people as of the 2010 Census), and the source of over $44 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012, about 11 percent of total U.S. cash farm receipts that year (according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, at, 2/28/14).

In April 2017, California officially emerged from a multi-year drought, with the April 7, 2017, executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown ending the state of emergency across California that he imposed in January 2014, except for four counties.  In its April 11, 2017, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s U.S. Drought Monitor  categorized about eight percent of the Golden State in “moderate drought” and about one percent in “severe drought.”  At the height of the drought in summer 2014, 100 percent of the state was categorized in severe drought, and 80 percent of the state was categorized in the worse categories of “extreme” or “exceptional” drought.  Here’s a description of conditions in California according to the comment section of  the Drought Monitor’s April 11 report: “Recent stats for California (taken from the California-Nevada Drought Monitor Discussion Call) show an incredible year for precipitation and runoff. In the Sacramento area, the precipitation percentages since October 1, 2016 range from 120-percent to 300-percent or more of normal.  The Northern Sierra 8-station index is at 205-percent of normal, only 0.8-inch away from the 1982-83 El Nino record, and the Central Sierra 6-station index is at 195-percent of normal.  Snowpack is equally impressive at 157-percent and 180-percent of normal for this date in the Northern and Central Sierra, respectively.  The Sierra reservoirs have made an amazing recovery this winter, with all the reservoirs at or just above their Top of Conservation levels.”

Following is information previously added to this post, maintained here for readers interested in the course of the exceptionally severe drought that fortunately finally ended for California in spring 2017.

As of the June 9, 2015, edition of the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (online at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/), almost 94 percent of California was categorized as being in “severe,” “extreme,” or “exceptional” drought (the Drought Monitor’s three driest categories, out of five). Over 90 percent of the state has been in these categories since February 2014, with 100 percent of the state so rated during much of summer 2014. And as far back as June 2013, over 50 percent of the state was in the severe-or-worse categories.

The following comments in the July 15, 2014, edition of the Drought Monitor add some more perspective on the current California drought:

“…With June [2014] in the books, NCDC [National Climatic Data Center; online at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/] rankings for California for the July 2013-June 2014 period were the warmest and 3rd driest since 1895.  The only drier July-June periods were in 1923-24 and 1976-77.  This is the first time California experienced 3 consecutive years in the top 20 for dryness: 2011-12 ranked 20th, 2012-13 ranked 18th, and statewide precipitation has averaged 67% of normal during this 3-year period, and was just 56% of normal in 2013-14.  Fortunately California’s reservoirs hold more water than they did in 1977 when the state experienced its 4th and 2nd driest years on record from July 1975-June 1977.  However, a recent study estimated that this drought will cost California $2.2 billion in 2014, with a loss of over 17,000 agricultural jobs.”

On July 16, 2014, the California Water Resources Control Board announced that mandatory restrictions on residential water use would begin August 1, with violators subject to fines of $500 per day.  Then, on May 5, 2015, the Board adopted emergency regulations requiring an immediate 25-percent reduction in overall water use across the state.  An Executive Order by Gov. Jerry Brown on April 1, 2015, had ordered the Board to adopt such regulations.  On June 12, 2015, the Board announced a rare cut in the water that will be allowed for farmers and other senior water rights holders (those with rights dating from 1903 or later) in the state’s Central Valley, including the Sacramento River watershed, San Joaquin River watershed, and the Delta (the area where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers merge and flow to San Francisco Bay).  For more information on the state’s water-conservation regulations, please see this link: Emergency Regulations Development to Achieve 25% Conservation.  For press releases from the Board, see http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/press_room/press_releases/.

Other Information Sources on the California Drought

KQED Public Media for San Francisco, “What is the California’s Delta?”  This is a 4 min./3 second video (produced in 2012) on California’s water supply and the key role played by the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers in northern California.  Online at https://ww2.kqed.org/quest/2012/05/04/what-is-california%e2%80%99s-delta/.

California Department of Food and Agriculture, online at http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/, phone: (916) 654-0466.  (For agricultural statistics, see http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/.)

California Department of Water Resources, online at http://www.water.ca.gov/; phone: (916) 653-5791.

California Institute for Water Resources/University of California-Davis, online at http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/, phone: (510) 987-9124.  (For drought-information resources, see http://ciwr.ucanr.edu/California_Drought_Expertise/.)

California State Water Resources Control Board, online at http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/; (916) 341-5254.

Los  Angeles Times, “California Drought,” online at http://www.latimes.com/local/drought/.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) California Water Science Center, Sacramento, online at http://ca.water.usgs.gov/; phone: (916) 278-3000.

PBS “NewsHour” reports:
*February 14, 2014, “California’s historic drought strains towns and farms in Sonoma County,” online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/california-historic-drought-strains-towns-farms-sonoma-county/ (8 min./4 sec.).

*July 16, 2014, “California’s ‘water cop’ urges residents to take drought seriously with mandatory restrictions,” online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/californias-water-cop-urges-residents-take-drought-seriously-mandatory-restrictions/ (9 min./38 sec.).

*May 6, 2015, “Will water-wasting penalties help California conserve?”; online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/will-water-wasting-penalties-help-california-conserve/ (5 min./36 sec.).

*July 4, 2015, “Will California’s new water restrictions ease its historic drought?”; online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/will-californias-new-water-restrictions-ease-historic-drought/ (9 min./48 sec.).

Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of March 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 end of March 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. (https://www.etsy.com/people/BlacksburgArt).  For previous monthly water status reports, please see this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Water+Status.

01 Icon Precip

Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary (still needing verification) precipitation totals for March 2017 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 March 2017 Observed

 

Monthly Normal April 2016-

March 2017 Observed

Annual Normal
Blacksburg 3.24 2.64 41.25 40.89
Bluefield1 3.62 2.51 37.98 39.63
Bristol2 4.57 3.44 36.59 41.01
Charlottesville3 2.73 3.66 31.94 42.71
Danville 2.65 4.11 45.07 44.41
Lynchburg 2.66 3.58 38.89 41.57
Norfolk 4.61 3.68 64.21 46.53
Richmond 3.68 4.04 52.76 43.60
Roanoke 2.32 3.46 42.75 41.25
Wallops Island4 3.38 4.00 56.95 40.84
Washington-Dulles Airport5 4.12 3.38 33.18 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. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=rnk);
Morristown, Tenn. (http://www.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=mrx;
Baltimore-Washington (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=lwx); and
Wakefield, Va. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=akq).

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 http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/land-based-station-data/land-based-datasets/climate-normals.

For graphs of precipitation, visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center (Chapel Hill, N.C) at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps, 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 http://water.weather.gov/precip/ 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 April 2, 2017.  Please note that the scale is different for the 30-day map.
PrecipPerc30 Apr2PrecipPerc60 Apr2PrecipPerc90 Apr2

02 Icon Streamflow 

According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=mv01d&r=va&w=map), monthly average stream flow values for March 2017 at 156 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal historical range at about 11% of gages, below normal at about 27%, and much below normal at about 62%.  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 Map March 2017

stream codes 

An overall look at Virginia streamflow conditions is provided in the USGS WaterWatch summary plot of daily average streamflow conditions, compared to historical records for any given date.  Below is the summary plot for 88 Virginia sites during the 45-day period ending April 1, 2017, accessed on April 3 at https://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?id=pa01d&sid=w__plot&r=va.
Streams Daily Average plot March

03 Icon Groundwater

Information on current groundwater levels in Virginia monitoring wells is available from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Information System, online at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/current/?type=gw; and from the USGS Climate Response Network, online at http://groundwaterwatch.usgs.gov/net/ogwnetwork.asp?ncd=crn (at that page, you can find a national map showing the status of groundwater monitoring wells compared to historical values).

04 Icon Drought

DROUGHT IN VIRGINIA

The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) for March 28, 2017, showed about 61.0% of Virginia as “abnormally dry”; about 41.0% in “moderate drought” (the middle one-third of the state, from Loudoun County to the central North Carolina border, plus the Martinsville region); and about 2.2% in “severe drought” (parts of about seven northern Va. counties).

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:
2/28/17 – 80.5% abnormally dry or worse, 17.1% moderate drought or worse, 2.9% in severe drought;
1/31/17 – 30.0% abnormally dry or worse, 0.5% moderate drought;
1/3/17 – 70.9% abnormally dry or worse, 15.4% moderate drought;
3/29/16 – drought-free.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent (as of 3/1/17) Drought Status Report on March 20, 2017.  A link to the report, along with other current drought-status information, is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterSupplyWaterQuantity/Drought.aspx.  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 in April 13, 2017.  Following is a short excerpt from the March 20 report:
“Drier-than-normal conditions continued to extend over much of the state due to below-normal precipitation during the winter season.  Portions of Northern Virginia, especially those areas within the Northern Virginia and Northern Piedmont drought-evaluation regions, continue to experience the driest conditions.  The DMTF agreed to recommend to the Virginia Drought Coordinator that a Drought Watch Condition should be declared for the Northern Virginia and Northern Piedmont drought-evaluation regions.  Recognizing that dry conditions are also continuing within adjoining drought-evaluation regions, plus the Roanoke River drought-evaluation region, the DMTF also agreed to distribute a message to water users in those areas to raise awareness of the long-term water supply impact of the dry winter and early spring conditions.

“…For the current water year (October 1, 2016–March 9, 2017) precipitation totals have so far been below 85% of normal for nine of Virginia’s thirteen drought-evaluation regions.  The Northern Virginia and Northern Piedmont regions have received just 56% and 52% of normal precipitation, respectively.  The Shenandoah and Roanoke regions have received 68% and 70% of normal precipitation, respectively….

“The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) reported that growers and producers in most areas of Virginia report dry conditions.  Most crop land is currently dormant; however, some small grain and cover crops have suffered due to the recent dry conditions.  During this time of year, producers do not rely on their pastures to feed livestock, which is typically fed stored hay during much of the winter.  However, some producers have expressed concern that the current dry conditions will impact pasture growth and result in deficiencies in the spring.

“The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) reported that there have been concerns from their staff, as well as from the angler community, regarding low water levels.  The DGIF’s Montebello fish hatchery has had difficulty with cold conditions and low water levels this winter.  The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) reported that the dry conditions in Virginia led to an early and active spring wildfire season.  The VDOF has responded to 260 wildfires which have burned almost 1100 acres in the Commonwealth since the first of the year.  Although activity is trending above average in terms of fire numbers, the VDOF believes that we have been fortunate that our overall acres burned have been less that what is normally expected.

“U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) staff from the Wilmington District office reported that, while they have concerns about low inflows to the Philpott and J. H. Kerr reservoirs in the Roanoke River basin, water levels are expected to remain in the normal range for now.  The guide curve for water levels at J. H. Kerr is now rising in order to hold water for the striped bass spawning season that begins April 1.  Without an increase in inflow over the next few weeks, levels at that reservoir may not keep up with the guide curve.”

The Drought Monitoring Task Force also produces a map rating drought-status indicators.  Shown below is the map for March 30, 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.
Va Drought status Mar30DROUGHT ELSEWHERE

The March 28, 2017, U.S. Drought Monitor rated about 34.9% of the United States (including all or parts of 42 states) as being abnormally dry or worse; [OMIT THIS TIME this is the lowest nationwide percentage of abnormally dry-or-worse conditions since the week of August 3, 2010].  The Drought Monitor rated 2.39% of the country (including parts of 22 states), as being in severe drought or worse (categories D2, D3, and D4); this is the lowest nationwide percentage of severe-or-worse drought since 2.34% for the week of October 5, 2010.  (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:
2/28/17 – 34.0% abnormally dry or worse, 3.1% severe drought or worse;
1/31/17 – 28.3% abnormally dry or worse, 3.2% severe drought or worse;
1/3/17 – 40.3% abnormally dry or worse, 7.2% severe drought or worse;
3/29/16 – 35.3% abnormally dry or worse, 5.2% severe drought or worse.

No state had 50% or more rated by the March 28 Drought Monitor in severe-or-worse drought.  The highest percentage of those categories was in Connecticut, at 42%.

In California, just over 1% of the state was rated on 3/28/17 as being in severe-or-worse drought.  This severe-or-worse rating, in effect since the week of March 14, 2017, was the lowest for the Golden State since the week of February 14, 2012.  Most of California is out of the drought that began in late 2011 to early 2012 and continued into early 2017.

90-DAY DROUGHT OUTLOOK

For a look ahead, the National Weather Service/Climate Prediction Center’s “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” is available at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/sdo_summary.php.  Shown below is the outlook map available on April 3, 2017.

Drought Outlook March 16

On Virginia Water Radio for 3-27-17: The Virginia Household Water Quality Program Helps Citizens Know Their Water Better

Virginia Water Radio’s latest episode for the week of March 27, 2017, is “Water from Wells, Springs, and Cisterns Gets a Check-up through the Virginia Household Water Quality Program.”  The 4 min./22 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2017/03/episode-361-3-27-17-water-from-wells.html, introduces a Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension program that provides household well-, spring-, and cistern-testing; interpretation of results; and water-management information for Virginia citizens.

PHoto 1 Virginia Household Water Quality clinic ONE box of kits for pickup Mar20 2017 Seitz Hall USED Radio 361

A box of household water-sampling kits awaits pick-up by citizen participants at the March 20, 2017, kickoff for Virginia Household Water Quality’s clinic for the Montgomery County.

Virginia Water Radio’s is a weekly broadcast/podcast produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.  The home page is http://www.virginiawaterradio.org.  Have a listen or two!

“Water is Life” is the Theme of the Annual SERCAP Meeting and the Focus of the Organization’s Mission

April 19, 2017, was the date for the annual “Water is Life! Luncheon and Conference” held by the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc., or SERCAP, located in Roanoke, Va.

The 2017 event marked the 48th anniversary of SERCAP, whose mission is to help provide safe and adequate water and wastewater, community development, environmental health, and economic self-sufficiency to rural citizens in seven southeastern states: Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  SERCAP is one of six rural community assistance projects in the United States.

More information about SERCAP and the annual luncheon/conference—at the Sheraton Roanoke Hotel and Conference Center—is available online at http://www.sercap.org/, or contact SERCAP at 347 Campbell Avenue, Roanoke, VA 24016; phone (540) 345-1184.

Water for Tomorrow photo
“Water for Tomorrow,” an influential 1988 report on water and wastewater needs by locality in Virginia, was published by the Virginia Water Project, the predecessor to SERCAP.

Virginia’s and the Nation’s Infrastructure Gets Graded by the American Society of Civil Engineers – 2017 Edition

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes a “report card” on the state of engineered infrastructure in the United States.  The report covers infrastructure in aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, school facilities, solid waste, transit, and wastewater.  The latest national report (as of March 13, 2017) gave a grade of D+, the same as the grade in 2013.  The report estimated the cost of making necessary infrastructure improvements at $4.59 trillion, compared to the 2013 estimate of $3.6 trillion.  The full national report for 2017 is available online at http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/.  A chart of results from previous reports–back to 1998–is available online at http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/making-the-grade/report-card-history/.

According to the “What Makes a Grade” section  of the Report Card Web site, grades were assigned based on capacity to meet current and future demand, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.  The grades are described as follows: A = exceptional; B = good; C = mediocre; D = poor; F = failing.

The 2017 national report also includes reports for each state.  As of 3/13/17, the Virginia assessment was a 2015 report compiled by the Virginia Section of the ASCE (ASCE-Va.).  The Virginia report is available at http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/state-item/virginia/.  The Virginia report give the Commonwealth an overall grade of C- (compared to a D+ in 2009), and the following category grades: bridges = C; dams = C; drinking water = C; parks = C+; rail and transit = C-; roads = D; school facilities = C-; solid waste = B-; stormwater = C-; and wastewater = D+.

News item related to Virginia report in 2015: Virginia infrastructure earns grade of C-, Capital News Service, 1/21/15.

Other sources of information on infrastructure needs in Virginia and elsewhere:

National Bridge Inventory Database, online at http://nationalbridges.com/.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “CorpsMap—National Inventory of Dams, online at http://nid.usace.army.mil/cm_apex/f?p=838:12.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Clean Watesheds Needs Survey 2012 Report to Congress,” available online at https://www.epa.gov/cwns.  According to this Web site, this report is an “assessment of capital investment needed nationwide for publicly-owned wastewater collection and treatment facilities to meet the water quality goals of the Clean Water Act.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (Fifth Report to Congress,” EPA 816-R-013-006, April 2013), available online at https://www.epa.gov/tribaldrinkingwater/drinking-water-infrastructure-needs-survey-and-assessment-fifth-report-congress.

Virginia Department of Transportation, “VTrans 2025: Virginia’s Statewide Multimodal Long-range Transportation Plan” (November 17, 2004): available online (as PDF) at http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/vtrans/resources/revisedPhase3Reportforctb.pdf.

Virginia General Assembly joint subcommittee reports on school construction:
1) “Report on the Level of Assistance to Localities Necessary for Developing Adequate K-12 Schools Infrastructure,” House Document 5 for 2005 (published February 2005): available online at http://leg2.state.va.us/DLS/h&sdocs.nsf/a762cd2685f84d7a85256f030053196e/8e7c1e3d13b4f07185256ec500553c48?OpenDocument.

2) “K-12 School Infrastructure,” House Document 2 for2006 (published November 2005); available online at http://leg2.state.va.us/DLS/h&sdocs.nsf/a762cd2685f84d7a85256f030053196e/fec93d6935f5541285257082005f7768?OpenDocument.

Infrastructure cartoon

Cartoon that accompanied a February 2010 Virginia Water Central newsletter article on the 2009 infrastructure report by the American Society of Civil Engineers-Virginia Section.  Illustration by George Wills, Blacksburg, Va. (http://www.etsy.com/people/BlacksburgArt).

Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of February 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 end of February 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. (https://www.etsy.com/people/BlacksburgArt).  For previous monthly water status reports, please see this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Water+Status.

01-icon-precip

Here are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary (still needing verification) precipitation totals for February 2017 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 February 2017 Observed

 

Monthly Normal March 2016-

February 2017 Observed

Annual Normal
Blacksburg 1.28 2.81 40.58 40.89
Bluefield1 1.56 2.76 35.82 39.63
Bristol2 2.13 3.45 32.96 41.01
Charlottesville3 0.64 2.70 30.70 42.71
Danville 0.89 3.01 44.75 44.41
Lynchburg 0.60 2.93 39.59 41.57
Norfolk 0.66 3.12 63.06 46.53
Richmond 0.71 2.76 50.10 43.60
Roanoke 0.54** 2.89 42.68 41.25
Wallops Island4 1.41 2.76 55.44 40.84
Washington-Dulles Airport5 0.71 2.74 30.51 41.54

**Record low for the month at respective location.

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. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=rnk);
Morristown, Tenn. (http://www.weather.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=mrx;
Baltimore-Washington (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=lwx); and
Wakefield, Va. (http://www.nws.noaa.gov/climate/index.php?wfo=akq).

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 http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/land-based-station-data/land-based-datasets/climate-normals.

For graphs of precipitation, visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center (Chapel Hill, N.C) at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps, 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 http://water.weather.gov/precip/ 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 February 28, 2017.  Please note that the scale is different for the 30-day map.

precipperc30feb28precipperc60feb28-jpgprecipperc90feb28

02-icon-streamflow According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=mv01d&r=va&w=map), monthly average stream flow values for February 2017 at 156 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were in the normal range at about 8% of gages, below normal at about 39%, and much below normal at about 53%.  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-feb2017 

KEEP on deskto - Stream flow code graph
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 February 27, 2017, accessed at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?id=pa07d&sid=w__plot&r=va on March 1, 2017.

streams-plot-march-1
03-icon-groundwater
Information on current groundwater levels in Virginia monitoring wells is available from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Information System, online at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/current/?type=gw; and from the USGS Climate Response Network, online at http://groundwaterwatch.usgs.gov/net/ogwnetwork.asp?ncd=crn (at that page, you can find a national map showing the status of groundwater monitoring wells compared to historical values).

04-icon-droughtDROUGHT IN VIRGINIA

The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) for February 28, 2017, showed about 80.5% of Virginia as “abnormally dry”; about 17.1% in “moderate drought” (covering the northern and central Piedmont and a small area on the south-central border with North Carolina); and about 2.9% in “severe drought” (covering parts of six northern counties).

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:
1/31/17 – 30.0% abnormally dry or worse, 0.5% moderate drought;
1/3/17 – 70.9% abnormally dry or worse, 15.4% moderate drought;
12/6/16 – 68.7% abnormally dry or worse, 27.7% moderate drought or worse, 0.8% severe drought;
3/1/16 – drought-free.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent (as of 3/1/17) Drought Status Report on February 13, 2017. A link to the report, along with other current drought-status information, is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterSupplyWaterQuantity/Drought.aspx.  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 March 16, 2017.

Following is a short excerpt from the February 13 report:
“The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force (DMTF) met on Thursday February 9, 2017, to discuss the status of drought monitoring and weather forecasts across the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Drier-than-normal conditions extend over much of the state due to below-normal precipitation over the past month.  Portions of Northern Virginia continue to experience the driest conditions.  …For the current water year (October 1, 2016–February 9, 2017) precipitation totals have so far been below 85% of normal for seven of Virginia’s thirteen drought evaluation regions.  Two of these regions (Northern Virginia and Northern Piedmont) have received just 57% and 56% of normal precipitation, respectively, while the Shenandoah and Roanoke regions each received 79% of normal.  Since February 1, 2016, the Northern Virginia and Northern Piedmont regions received 81% and 84% of normal precipitation [respectively].  The remaining 11 drought-evaluation regions each received more than 90% of normal precipitation during the same period.  …The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) did not receive any reports of dry conditions that negatively impacted agriculture within Virginia over the past month.”

The Drought Monitoring Task Force also produces a map rating drought-status indicators.  As of March 1, 2017, the map’s database was undergoing revisions, so no daily map was available for this post.

DROUGHT ELSEWHERE

The February 28, 2017, U.S. Drought Monitor rated about 34.0% of the United States (including all or parts of 46 states plus Puerto Rico) as being abnormally dry or worse.  The Drought Monitor rated about 3.1% of the country (including parts of 22 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:
1/31/17 – 28.3% abnormally dry or worse, 3.2% severe drought or worse;
1/3/17 – 40.3% abnormally dry or worse, 7.2% severe drought or worse;
12/6/16 – 47.3% abnormally dry or worse, 11.7% severe drought or worse;
3/1/16 – 28.6% abnormally dry or worse, 6.5% severe drought or worse.

In one state, 50 percent or more of the state was rated by the February 28 Drought Monitor as in severe-or-worse drought:
Connecticut, 76%.

In California, about 4% of the state was rated on 1/31/17 as being in severe-or-worse drought.  This severe-or-worse rating is the lowest for the Golden State since the week of February 14, 2012.  California finally seems to be nearing the end of drought that began in late 2011 to early 2012.

Following are some comments from the February 28 Drought Monitor on conditions in several parts of the country:

Virginia
“According to February 27 USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] reports, 44% of the pasture and rangeland in Virginia was rated in poor to very poor condition.”

The Southeast
“D0-D2 expanded in the Carolinas, and D3 crept into the western Carolinas.  Very dry conditions were evident in many drought indicators, including record low streamflow and record low precipitation.  The last 12 months (02/29/16-02/28/17) have been the driest such 12-month period on record for over a dozen stations in the southern Appalachian area…. Similarly, over a dozen stations in the western Carolinas and northern Georgia had the driest 6 months on record for 8/28/16-2/28/17.”

The South
“…February 27 USDA reports indicated that topsoil moisture was short or very short (dry to very dry) across 42% of Oklahoma and 33% of Texas, and subsoil moisture was short or very short across 43% of Oklahoma and 30% of Texas.  Pasture and rangeland were in poor to very poor condition across 37% of Oklahoma and 20% of Texas, while some crops were suffering at this early stage.  In Oklahoma, 21% of the canola, 27% of the oats, and 15% of the winter wheat were in poor to very poor condition.”

Midwest
“February 27 USDA reports indicated that 46% of the subsoil and 51% of the topsoil in Missouri, and 27% of the subsoil and 28% of the topsoil in Illinois, were short or very short of moisture.”

Central to Northern Plains
“According to February 27 USDA reports, 56% of the subsoil and 55% of the topsoil in Kansas, and 30% of the subsoil and 25% of the topsoil in Nebraska, were short to very short of moisture, while 21% of the winter wheat in Kansas was in poor to very poor condition.”

90-DAY DROUGHT OUTLOOK

For a look ahead, the National Weather Service/Climate Prediction Center’s “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” is available at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/sdo_summary.php.  Shown below is the outlook map available on March 1, 2017.

drought-outlook-us-march-1

$4 Million in Community Development Block Grants Announced by Va. Governor’s Office on Feb. 6, 2017, Include Three Related to Water/Weather

On February 6, 2017, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office announced that over $4 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) had been awarded to nine Virginia localities for 10 projects in economic-development, water/sewer infrastructure, and neighborhood revitalization projects.

The water- and weather-related grants included the following:
$879,760 to Appomattox County for relief work after the February 24, 2016, tornado;
$387,500 to Buchanan County for the Coon Branch waterline extension project;
$500,000 to the Northampton County town of Exmore for a well and water-treatment facility.

CDBG grants are federally funded, awarded competitively, administered in Virginia by the Department of Housing and Community Development, and designed to assist primarily low- and moderate-income communities.  More information about the CDBG program in Virginia is available online at http://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/index.php/business-va-assistance/blighted-structures/community-development-block-grant-cdbg/10-community-development-block-grant-cdbg.html.

Source: Governor McAuliffe Announces More Than $4 Million in Community Development Block Grants; Ten projects address community economic development, water and sewer service, local innovation, and urgent needs in nine localities, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 2/6/17.