U.S. Water News Online
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- State officials have declared a drought
watch across most of Pennsylvania, and asked residents to curtail
water use while the dryness continues.
While they say reservoirs appear to be in good shape, farm
officials warned the state's corn crop could sustain significant
damage, and weather forecasters said the dry spell should stretch
"For the next month in general, conditions don't look overly good
for a wet pattern," said National Weather Service hydrologist Peter
Jung in State College.
In declaring the drought watch, the state Department of
Environmental Protection cited declining groundwater levels and
stream flows after a two-month dry stretch that has left many
counties more than four inches below average rainfall levels.
Only nine of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, all in the southeast,
escaped a drought watch designation: Bucks, Berks, Chester, Delaware,
Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia.
Dryness has persisted on the East Coast for several months, with
the worst spots in the deep south, according to the National Drought
Mitigation Center. More recently, it has spread north to
Northern Pennsylvania has been the hardest hit over the past 90
days. Clinton, Union, Schuylkill and McKean counties are at least 5.5
inches behind average rainfalls over that period, according to the
Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center.
Groundwater levels are below average in the southern, western and
northern counties, Jung said. Only some of the central and
southeastern counties are showing normal groundwater levels, he said.
The good news is -- September and October could bring more
rainfall, Jung said -- although that may not be soon enough for many
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau said the agency is
trying to get a handle on which areas are in the deepest trouble.
"We are in a very critical period over the next few days where
rain will either save the day for several crops or not," said
spokesman Gary Swan.
In particular, Swan said he believes the state's corn growers
could sustain heavy losses.
Jeff Grove of Gro-Lan Farms in Franklin County said he expects a
50 percent loss of the corn crop grown to feed 450 dairy cows. Some
nearby fields are showing no ears of corn at all, which Grove
attributed to the lack of rainfall while the corn pollinated over the
"Without crop insurance, this is the kind of year that could put
you out of business," Grove said.
William Troxell, the executive secretary of the Pennsylvania
Vegetable Growers Association, said growers will lose some of their
crops, especially sweet corn, if they do not have irrigation systems.
Snap bean yields were lower than normal during the recent harvest, he
A drought watch is the first of Pennsylvania's three drought
classifications, and calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction in
water use. If the dryness continues, a drought warning could follow,
calling for a voluntary reduction of 10 percent. A drought emergency
comes after that, and mandates that major water users reduce their
consumption by 15 percent.
The DEP also monitors soil moisture and water supply storage.
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