U.S. Water News Online
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Near-drought conditions are causing
headaches for many residents of central Pennsylvania -- and a sharp
increase in business for companies that drill wells and supply
``This is the first time it's been this busy since the heat wave
two years ago,'' said Dana Flexman, office manager for the Myers
Brothers Drilling Contractors of Salunga.
The number of service calls received by the company had tripled,
and all 22 of its employees were all out on jobs, Flexman said.
Companies that sell bottled water to homes and offices have been
flooded with calls from clients who are running out before their
scheduled water delivery day.
In Gettysburg, Roaring Spring Premium Spring Water has seen a
doubling of new customers in recent weeks, including many who
normally draw their water from wells.
``They're saying, 'We need water now, we don't care what price it
is,'' said Jen Cassatt, who helps handle orders for the company.
The state Department of Environmental Protection issued a
``drought watch'' for 23 counties and urged residents to take steps
that include taking shorter showers and refraining from watering
lawns to avert a drought emergency.
``We've been experiencing below-normal precipitation across the
state since August 2000, and well levels are continuing to drop
off,'' said Environmental Protection Secretary David E. Hess.
Counties affected by the action are Adams, Bedford, Blair, Centre,
Clinton, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon,
Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour,
Northumberland, Perry, Schuylkill, Snyder, Union and York.
A drought watch, which calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction
in nonessential water use, is the first of three stages under the
state's drought-response plan. The second stage is a drought warning,
which calls for a voluntary reduction of 10 to 15 percent. The third
stage, a drought emergency, calls for mandatory restrictions on water
Homeowners who get their water from wells have had to call in
contractors to drill deeper wells because their water sources are
Galen Westbrook, owner of G & R Westbrook Inc. in Boiling
Springs, who has been drilling and maintaining central Pennsylvania
wells for 37 years, said the water output of some wells he has
visited recently had dropped to as little as half as much as usual.
Westbrook said an unusually dry summer has left the area
particularly vulnerable to the effects of the heat wave.
``This is definitely a warning sign,'' he said. ``It's a whole lot
drier than a lot of people realize. It's only going to get worse as
time goes on.''
The state has actually been hovering just above drought level all
year, said officials with the Department of Environmental Protection.
The Susquehanna River basin has been the most affected by the low
levels of rainfall.
``We're just hoping to slow down deteriorating conditions (with
the drought watch),'' said spokeswoman April Hutcheson, ``but our
groundwater is not limitless, and if it doesn't get replenished soon,
it will run out.''
Hutcheson said one or two showers might not be enough to get rid
of the drought threat.
``It all depends on where it rains, when it rains, how much, and
how well we're doing in terms of conservation,'' she said.
``Typically in August, when we get rain it's because of a
thunderstorm, spotty and local. It's hard to tell whether or not
that's going to be enough this year.''
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