Category Archives: Water Supply

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, 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  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, 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  A chart of results from previous reports–back to 1998–is available online at

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  The Virginia report give the Commonwealth an overall grade of C- (compared to a D+ in 2009), and the following grades in each category: aviation = no grade; bridges = C; dams = C; drinking water = C; energy = no grade; 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.

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. (

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. (  For previous monthly water status reports, please see this link:


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. (;
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 February 28, 2017.  Please note that the scale is different for the 30-day map.


02-icon-streamflow According to the U.S. Geological Survey WaterWatch for Virginia (online at, 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.


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 on March 1, 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).

04-icon-droughtDROUGHT IN VIRGINIA

The weekly National Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ( 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  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.


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:

“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.”

“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.”


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 March 1, 2017.


$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

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.

Water Week 2017 is March 19-25 in Washington, D.C.

Water Week 2017 is a gathering of people and organizations working in the water utilities sector.  The event will be held March 19-25 in Washington, D.C.  According to the event’s Web site, it is intended to “communicate the value of water to environmental protection, to economic development, and to job creation, and [to] inspire action.”

Organizing groups include the following:
American Water Works Association;
Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies;
National Association of Clean Water Agencies;
US Water Alliance;
Water Environment Foundation;
Water Environment and Reuse Foundation;
Water Research Foundation;
Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association.

For more information, visit

Virginians Who Use Private Wells, Springs, or Cisterns Can Get Inexpensive Baseline Testing and Assistance from the Virginia Household Water Quality Program and Master Well-owner Network; Drinking-water Clinics in 2017 Run from March 15 to November 1 in over 50 Localities

The Virginia Household Water Quality Program offers drinking-water clinics in which people who rely on private wells, springs, or cisterns can get their water tested inexpensively for key constituents and receive a report interpreting the results.  The cost to participate in 2017 is $55.  The clinics in 2017, running from March 15 to November 1, will cover over 50 localities.  A list of upcoming clinics in 2017 is available at this Web site:

Meanwhile, as of February 2017, the Virginia Master Well Owner network has over 180 members—volunteers as well as staff from Virginia Cooperative Extension and other state agencies—in several dozen Virginia localities who can assist Virginians with drinking-water well questions and problems.

Both programs are coordinated by the Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering.  More information is available online at, or contact the coordinator of the programs, Erin James Ling, at (540) 231-9058 or

For a news account of the well-testing program, please see Virginia Tech researchers: Flint-like problems also present in Virginia wells, Roanoke Times, 4/10/16.