Strasburg declares drought emergency
STRASBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Town of Strasburg has declared a drought emergency due to low river flow levels in the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, the town’s primary water source. It’s the first time the town has declared a drought emergency since 2017.
“The emergency declaration comes off of trigger levels on the river in cubic feet per second (cfs) flow that was established by DEQ back in 2015 as a condition to get our water withdrawal permit approved,” said Philip Gimple, Strasburg’s Superintendent of Water Treatment.
According to a press release from the town as of August 9, 2023, the river’s seven-day average flow had dropped to 70 cfs. The town is required to declare a drought emergency condition anytime the seven-day average drops below 90 cfs.
“In my sense, during this time it’s important to practice the best water conservation measures that you can until we are out of the drought restrictions as a whole,” said Gimple.
All residents and businesses in Strasburg are now required to practice water conservation measures. Some of these include not washing vehicles or streets as well as not watering lawns or athletic fields.
“As far as operations go to operate the municipality the town is seeking to conserve 10 to 15 percent water consumption or usage (daily) and cut back on as much as we can,” said Gimple.
The river gauge for the North Fork in Strasburg showed the river level Tuesday at 1.7 feet which is close to the record low of 1.5 feet set in February of 1934. Gimple said that it will likely take a prolonged rain event to get the town out of the drought emergency.
“Rain south of us will bring up our water flows,” he said. “It’s a two-fold problem. We are kind of in a drought stage in the sense that the river flows are low and we’re also in a drought stage in the sense that we’re not getting rain in Strasburg to replenish the groundwater aquifers.”
Below is a full list of non-essential water use prohibitions from the town’s press release for those who live in Strasburg:
NON-ESSENTIAL WATER USE PROHIBITIONS (DROUGHT EMERGENCY CONDITION)
Exceptions are listed below each use.
• Unrestricted non-commercial watering (public or private) Lawn Irrigation
o Newly sodded and seeded areas may be irrigated to establish cover on bare ground at the minimum rate necessary for no more than a period of 60 days. Irrigation rates may not exceed one inch of applied water in any 7-day period. Consider delaying the seeding or sodding of new lawns.
o Gardens, bedding plants, trees, shrubs, and other landscape materials may be watered with hand-held containers not exceeding three (3) gallons in capacity. Watering may be done between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. to avoid the heat of the day. Do not use sprinklers.
• Athletic Field Irrigation
o Athletic fields may be irrigated between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. at a rate not to exceed one inch per application of more than a total of one inch in multiple applications during any ten-day period. All irrigation water must fall on the playing surfaces with no outlying areas receiving irrigation water directly from irrigation heads.
o Athletic fields may be irrigated between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. during necessary overseeding, sprigging, or resodding operations at the minimum rate necessary for a period that does not exceed 60 days. Irrigation rates during this restoration period may not exceed one inch of applied water in any seven-day period.
o All allowed athletic field irrigation must be applied in a manner to assure that no runoff, puddling, or excessive watering occurs.
o Irrigation is prohibited on athletic fields that are not scheduled for use within the next 120 days.
• Washing of paved surfaces such as streets, roads, sidewalks, driveways, garages, parking areas, tennis courts, and patios.
o Surfaces may be washed with hand-held containers not exceeding three (3) gallons in capacity. Washing should not occur during the heat of the day.
o As needed to ensure public health and safety and approved by the Town of Strasburg.
• Use of water for the operation of ornamental fountains, artificial waterfalls, misting machines, and reflection pools.
o Fountains and other means of aeration necessary to support aquatic life are permitted.
• Serving water in restaurants, clubs, or eating places.
o May only be allowed at the specific request of the customer.
• Washing or cleaning of mobile equipment including automobiles, trucks, trailers, and boats.
o Mobile equipment may be washed at car washes that utilize reclaimed water as part of the wash process or reduce water consumption by at least 10% when compared to a similar period when water use restrictions were not in effect. Any facility operating a reclaimed water system must prominently display, in public view, a sign stating that such a recycling system is in operation.
o Mobile equipment may be washed using hand-held containers not exceeding three (3) gallons in capacity or hand-held hoses equipped with automatic shutoff devices provided that no mobile equipment is washed more than once per calendar month and the minimum amount of water is utilized.
o Automobile dealers and rental agencies may wash cars that are in inventory no more than once per week utilizing handheld containers not exceeding three (3) gallons in capacity, hoses equipped with automatic shutoff devices, automated equipment that utilizes reclaimed water as part of the wash process, or automated equipment where water consumption is reduced by at least 10% when compared to a similar period when water us restrictions were not in effect.
• Filling and topping off outdoor swimming pools.
o Newly built or repaired pools may be filled to protect their structural integrity.
o Outdoor pools operated by commercial ventures, community associations, recreation associations, and similar institutions open to the public may be refilled as long as:
▪ Levels are maintained at mid-skimmer depth or lower.
▪ Any visible leaks are immediately repaired.
▪ Backwashing occurs only when necessary to assure proper filter operation.
▪ Deck areas are washed no more than once per calendar month (except where chemical spills or other hazards occur).
▪ All water features (other than slides) that increase losses due to evaporation are eliminated.
▪ Slides are turned off when the pool is not in operation.
▪ Swimming pools operated by health care facilities used in relation to patient care and rehabilitation may be filled or topped off.
DROUGHT WATCH and WARNING (Mandatory while in a Drought Emergency)
All water users are encouraged to implement the following water conservation measures:
• Reduce or eliminate OUTSIDE water consumption by implementing the following actions:
o Mow lawns to 3 inches or more and leave clippings (higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper to hold soil moisture better than closely clipped lawn).
o Use mulch around plants to reduce evaporation.
o Aerate lawn to reduce evaporation.
o Avoid fertilizing your lawn. Fertilizer applications increase the need for water.
o Place rain barrels under gutter downspouts to collect water for plants, car washing, or general cleaning projects.
o Avoid washing cars and other vehicles.
o Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways, walks, and patios.
o Do not wash hard surfaces or buildings.
o Do not plant new landscaping or grass.
• Reduce or eliminate INSIDE water consumption by implementing the following actions:
o Using automatic dishwasher only when load is full.
o Installing faucet aerators, low-flow shower heads, and water-efficient toilets.
o Avoiding running water to get cold temperature; keep a pitcher of cold water in the refrigerator.
o Minimizing use of garbage disposal.
o Limiting showers to 5 to 10 minutes / day / person.
o Wrapping hot water heater and pipes with insulating material.
It should be noted that these are MANDATORY water conservation measures and restrictions. Anyone found in violation of the Emergency Drought restrictions is subject to penalties as established by the Town Code Section 86-40 and Section 86-41.
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