Dry Conditions and Water-supply Responses in Virginia in Fall 2017 Examined in Nov. 6, 2017, Report from WMRA Radio

“What Does DEQ’s Drought Watch Mean?,” broadcast and posted on November 6, 2017, by WMRA FM-Harrisonburg, gives an overview of water-supply conditions in several central and western Virginia localities that were under voluntary or mandatory water-use reductions in fall 2017.

The 5 min./4 sec. audio and transcript are available online at http://wmra.org/post/what-does-deqs-drought-watch-mean#stream/0.


Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Resources Conference, October 12-13, 2017, in Shepherdstown, West Va. – Presentations Available Online as of November 6, 2017

On October 12-13, 2017, at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) hosted the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Conference.

Conference presentations are available online at http://midatlanticwrc.org/event-info/agenda/; to view the abstracts and presentations, click on a given talk’s title within the conference agenda table.

The conference was a collaborative effort of Delaware Water Resources Center (at the University of Delaware), the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center (at Penn State), the Virginia Water Resources Research Center (at Virginia Tech), and WVWRI (at West Virginia Institute).

For questions or more information about the conference, visit http://midatlanticwrc.org/, or contact the conference coordinator at the WVWRI by e-mail at wvwaterconference@mail.wvu.edu or by phone at (304) 293-7009.

Potomac River from NCTC boat launch ONE Oct12 2017 USED Grouper 11-7-17

The Potomac River, viewed October 12, 2017, from the grounds of the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

National Hurricane Center’s Graphical Atlantic Tropical Weather Outlook for 2 Days and 5 Days, as of November 7, 2017

Here’s a look at the National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) Atlantic tropical weather outlook for the next few days.  The Virginia Water Central News Grouper posts these outlooks approximately weekly (depending on the level of weather activity) during the Atlantic tropical storm season (June 1-November 30).

As of the morning of Tuesday, November 7, 2017, Tropical Storm Rina was in the mid-Atlantic Ocean and was predicted to turn to the northeast and move toward Europe during the next few days.  Shown below are the NHC’s two-day and five-day graphical tropical weather outlook maps as of the morning of November 7, accessed at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.

tropical 2-day Nov7

tropical 5-day Nov7

Virginia Precipitation and Stream Flow for the 7-day Period Ending November 6, 2017, Plus an Overview of Flooding Nationwide

Below are several items summarizing recent precipitation and stream flow:

  1. Images showing precipitation in Virginia and other areas of the United States, and stream flow in Virginia, over the seven-day period ending November 6, 2017 (information available as of November 7).
  2. Flooding overview maps for Virginia and nationwide, as of November 7.

The Virginia Water Resources Research Center thanks the agencies mentioned below for providing precipitation and stream-flow information and images. For the current month’s other weekly reports on stream flow and precipitation, please see the News Grouper posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Virginia+Precipitation.

For monthly reviews of precipitation, stream flow, and drought, please see the posts available at this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=Monthly+Water+Status.

For more information on current and historical surface-water and groundwater conditions in Virginia, please see the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Virginia Science Center’s Web site, http://va.water.usgs.gov/.

GAGE Nov2017 Opequon Creek near Berryville at Rt 7 bridge Nov28 2010

November 2017 Gaging Station of the Month: Opequon Creek at U.S. Route 7 at the Clarke County/Frederick County line, November 28, 2010. U.S. Geological Survey information from this gage is online at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/uv?site_no=01615000. For the Virginia map of gaging sites, see https://waterdata.usgs.gov/va/nwis/rt.


The following two color-coded maps show southeastern U.S. precipitation amounts (top map) and the percent of normal precipitation compared to normal for this period of the year (bottom map) over the seven-day period ending November 6, 2017.  As of that date, these data were provisional (needing to be verified for accuracy and subject to possible revision).  The maps were accessed from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Southeast Regional Climate Center, located at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, online at http://www.sercc.com/climateinfo/precip_maps.  Maps for other regions are available online at https://hprcc.unl.edu/maps.php?map=ACISClimateMaps.

precip Nov6precip perc Nov6

Another source of precipitation data is the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, online at http://water.weather.gov/precip/.  The site provides maps showing precipitation nationwide or by state for specific days, months, or years.  The site also has the capability to show county boundaries, and other map layers available include river flood forecasts and current flood/severe weather warnings.  Shown below is the continental U.S. 7-day precipitation map as of 7 a.m. EST on 11/7/17.  Please note that UTC, the time shown on the maps at the site, is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Precip US Nov7

Stream Flow

Seven-day-average Virginia stream flows at gaging stations as of November 6, 2017 are indicated in the map below, from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) WaterWatch for Virginia, accessed online at http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=pa07d&r=va&w=map.  The map’s color-coded dots compare the previous week’s average stream flows to the normal flow levels for that week over the historical record for each gaging station.  The color codes/percentile classes used by USGS are as shown in the chart following the map.  Note: Additional gaging stations (such as for reservoirs or for inactive sites) are shown on maps available at the USGS’ National Water Information System Mapper, online at https://maps.waterdata.usgs.gov/mapper/index.html.

streams Nov6

stream codes

Flooding Overview

As of about 9:30 a.m. EST on November 7, 2017, about 16 stream-gaging stations in or adjacent to Virginia were either experiencing flooding or near flood stage, according to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service’s (AHPS) map of stream and river levels relative to flood stage (color-coded) for Virginia and nearby areas.  The AHPS map for Virginia is shown below, along with the nationwide map as of the same time.  The maps are available online at http://water.weather.gov/ahps/forecasts.php; at that site, one can select Virginia or any other state of interest.
Flooding 01 VA Nov7Floording 02 US

On Virginia Water Radio for 11-6-17: The Flu and Water

Virginia Water Radio’s episode for the week of November 6, 2017, is “The Flu and Water.”  The 4 min./43 sec. episode, available online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2017/11/episode-393-11-6-17-flu-and-water.html,  examines three connections between water and this annual deliverer of fevers, body aches, and other symptoms.

393 image 2 FluWeeklyReportOct28

Centers for Disease Control and Protection weekly map of flu activity, as of 10/28/17. Map accessed online at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/usmap.htm, 11/6/17.

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!

James River Transmission Line Proposal by Dominion Energy – Latest Update November 6, 2017: Construction to Begin

Information in this post starts in November 2015.  Later updates follow from top to bottom.  The latest update was November 6, 2017.

November 2015: November 13, 2015, was the last day for public comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Dominion Virginia Power’s application to build a $155-million, 17-tower, 500-kilovolt transmission line from its Surry Nuclear Power Station in Surry County across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  Dominion asserts that the transmission line is necessary for electricity reliability on Virginia’s Peninsula (the location of the Hampton Roads area with about 500,000 residents, several military installations, and many other power users).  The project faces opposition from groups and citizens who object to the impact they believe the line would have on views from Jamestown Island and other historic or scenic locations.  The transmission line was approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) in November 2013, but that approval was challenged by James City County, Save the James Alliance Trust, and the James River Association, who asserted that local zoning approval was necessary for the project; and by BASF Corporation, who objected to the line’s crossing an environmental-remediation area on James River property owned by the corporation.  In April 2015, the Virginia Supreme Court said the SCC did not err in approving the transmission line route, but the court also said local government approval is, in fact, necessary for the switching station in James City County.  As of November 11, 2015, Dominion still needed a permit from the Corps of Engineers, and the James City County Board of Supervisors had yet to rule on Dominion’s application for a special use permit to build the Skiffes Creek switching station.  A PDF of the April 2015 Virginia Supreme Court ruling on the transmission line is available online at http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1140462.pdfSources: Power line across the James River: An intrusive eyesore or electrical necessity?Virginian-Pilot, 9/27/15.  Charles City County residents oppose Dominion’s Chickahominy alternative route, Virginia Gazette, 11/4/15.  Near Jamestown, Dominion power line battles history, “Marketplace” (American Public Media), 8/18/15.  Transmission line project over James River voted down [by James City County Planning Commission on 8/5/15], WVEC-TV Norfolk, 8/6/15.  New Battle of Jamestown pits power lines against preservationists, Washington Post, 7/14/15.  Groups fight to save James River views from overhead power lines, Bay Journal, 7/8/15.  Opponents cheer Va. ruling on James River transmission line, Associated Press, as published by WAVY-TV Portsmouth, Va., 4/16/15.  Va. approves controversial Dominion power line over historic James River, Washington Post, 11/27/13.

Update 6/15/16: On June 13, 2016, Dominion Virginia Power released its latest plan—submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—for mitigating environmental impacts of its proposed 500-kilovolt transmission line from its Surry Nuclear Power Station in Surry County across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  The plan released on June 13 provides more details on proposed mitigation activities than had been provided in a December 2015 version; in March 2016, the Corps notified Dominion areas needing more information.  The newly released proposal is Dominion’s response.  As in the previous version, the proposed mitigation activities would cost around $85 million.
Source: Mitigation plan largely unchanged, number remains at $85 million, Virginia Gazette, 6/14/16.

Update 6/14/17
On June 12, 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a provisional proffered permit for Dominion Energy’s (formerly Dominion Resources/Dominion Virignia Power) proposal to build a 500-kilovolt transmission line from across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  The proposed project still requires permits from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and James City County.   Sources: Dominion gets provisional permit for contentious James River transmission line near historic sites, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/13/17; Power line across James River one step closer to approval, Bay Journal, July-August 2017.  For information about the application for the Corps of Engineers permit, see http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/SkiffesCreekPowerLine.aspx.

Update 8/7/17
On August 3, 2017, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Virginia filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., seeking to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to perform an environmental impact statement of Dominion  Energy’s proposed 500-kilovolt power line across the James River to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County.  The National Parks Conservation Association filed a similar lawsuit in July 2017.  Currently the Corps intends to perform an “environmental assessment,” a less comprehensive review.  Both kinds of study fall under the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; for more information on that act, see U.S. EPA, online at https://www.epa.gov/nepa/national-environmental-policy-act-review-process).   Source: Dominion Energy : New lawsuit contests James River power line, 4-Traders.com, 8/4/17.

Update 11/6/17
On November 2, 2017, Dominion announced that it had received received needed approvals to begin construction of the power line.  Dominion announced that it had completed mitigation activities required in an agreement among the company, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and a historic preservation advisory council.  SourceDominion set to begin construction on new transmission line, Associated Press, as published by WAVY TV-Portsmouth, Va., 11/3/17.

Other news articles:
DomPower: Skiffes Creek necessary to avoid rolling blackouts or worse, Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, 1/17/17.
Army Corps to host sit-down between Dominion and opposition groups on Surry-Skiffes Creek project, Virginia Gazette, 1/19/16.
Clash of Competing Values, Bacon’s Rebellion, 1/20/16 [Detailed article on the process of, and concerns about, the routes of Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed Surry-Skiffes Creek transmission line and of the company’s proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline.]

skiffes map

Project location map for proposed power-transmission line from Surry Nuclear Power Station in Surry County, Va., to a proposed switching station near Skiffes Creek in James City County, Va., accessed at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Web site, http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/SkiffesCreekPowerLine.aspx, 11/11/5.

Virginia Water Status Report as of the End of October 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 October 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 PrecipHere are National Weather Service (NWS) preliminary (still needing verification) precipitation totals for October 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.  The values are in inches.

Location October 2017 Observed Monthly Normal November 2016-October 2017 Observed Annual Normal
Blacksburg 7.72 2.78 43.54 40.89
Bluefield1 5.06 2.50 43.48 39.63
Bristol2 4.45 2.10 48.67 41.01
Charlottesville3 3.89 3.11 36.39 42.71
Danville 2.92 3.53 42.47 44.41
Lynchburg 2.57 3.11 35.48 41.57
Norfolk 5.06 3.42 49.11 46.53
Richmond 4.95 2.98 39.36 43.60
Roanoke 4.18 2.89 39.79 41.25
Wallops Island4 8.04 3.17 50.52 40.84
Washington-Dulles Airport5 3.15 3.25 42.03 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 High Plains Regional Climate Center at https://hprcc.unl.edu/maps.php?map=ACISClimateMaps), where you can find maps of total precipitation and percent of normal precipitation for the past 7, 30, 60, or 90 days for all U.S. regions; 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 preliminary maps of the percent-of-normal precipitation for the southeastern United States for the previous 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days, through October 31, 2017.

Precip Perc 30Precip Perc 60Precip perc 90 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 October 2017 at 159 stream gages in Virginia and just beyond the state border were as follows, compared to the historical range for each given gage:
within the normal historial range – about 54% of gages;
below normal – about 20%;
much below normal – about 8%;
above normal – about 18%.

Shown below is the color-coded, flow-percentile map for this period, accessed online at https://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=mv01d&r=va&w=map on 11/2/17.  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 Octstream 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 October 31, 2017, accessed on 11/2/17 at https://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?id=pa01d&sid=w__plot&r=va.

Streams Plot

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).


The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/) for October 31, 2017, categorized 41.5% of Virginia as “abnormally dry” (covering the state approximately from the Piedmont east, except for the eastern peninsulas and the Eastern Shore).  The October 31 report categorized 3.8% of Virginia in “moderate drought” (covering parts of six counties along southern border, just east of Danville).

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:
9/26/17 – 18/1% abnormally dry;
8/29/17 – 19.7% abnormally dry;
7/25/17 – 32.4% abnormally dry;
11/1/16 – 28.9% abnormally dry; 3.4% moderate drought.

The Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force (DMTF), a collaboration of state and federal agencies, issued its most recent (as of 10/31/17) Drought Status Report on October 11, 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 November 2, 2017.  Following is an excerpt from the October 11 report:
“Much below normal rainfall and variable temperatures occurred across Virginia throughout September.  Stream flow gaging stations reported flows that were generally below the normal range (between the 25th and 75th percentiles) with many stations across central, southern, and western Virginia reporting much below-normal flows (less than the 10th percentile).  The recorded 28-day average streamflow at stations in the Shenandoah River basin were lower than the 5th percentile, indicating severe hydrologic drought.  Most of the wells in the Virginia Climate Response network of groundwater level observation wells were reporting normal levels, except for the wells in central Virginia, which continued to report below normal levels.

“The DMTF discussed the continuing dry conditions, especially within the Middle James, Roanoke River and Shenandoah drought evaluation regions, and agreed to recommend the issuance of Drought Watch advisories for these regions.  The DMTF also agreed to continue the existing Drought Watch in the Northern Piedmont region.  The group also decided that the time period for evaluation of the precipitation indicators on the Statewide drought indicator map should be changed from the entire previous water year (October 1, 2016–September 30, 2017) to a more recent period (e.g., the previous 60 or 90 days).  DEQ staff implemented this change. …

“The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) reported that some growers Virginia have reported dry conditions that have negatively impacted setting of cover crops.  Also, livestock producers have reported that the extended August and September dry conditions affected pastures to the extent that livestock hay use is 2-3 months ahead of normal.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Wilmington NC District reported that minimal rainfall has occurred upstream of the J. H. Kerr and Philpott reservoirs in the Roanoke basin.  The water levels at J. H. Kerr and Philpott dams are running 3.5 feet and 3 feet below guide curve respectively, for this time of year.  USACE Norfolk Region staff reported that water levels at Lake Moomaw (Gathright Dam) on the upper James River were just above 1568 ft (approximately 3 feet above Watch level), and dropping about 0.15 feet per day.”

The Drought Monitoring Task Force also produces a map rating drought-status indicators.  Shown below is the map for November 1, 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.”  Note the Watch conditions for four regions in central Virginia, the groundwater emergency conditions in one region, and the streamflow warning conditions in one region.  Any given day’s current map and more information on drought status in Virginia are available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterSupplyWaterQuantity/Drought/CurrentDroughtConditionsMap.aspx.

Drought VA Nov1


The October 31, 2017, U.S. Drought Monitor categorized 28.1% of the United States (including all or parts of 44 states) as being abnormally dry or worse.  The Drought Monitor categorized 2.3% of the country (including parts of 7 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:
9/26/17 – 31.0% abnormally dry or worse, 4.2% severe drought or worse;
8/29/17 – 25.8% abnormally dry or worse, 4.8% severe drought or worse;
7/25/17 – 33.8% abnormally dry or worse, 4.4% severe drought or worse;
11/1/16 – 45.0% abnormally dry or worse; 12.1% severe drought or worse.


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 November 1, 2017.

Drought Outlook map October