Richmond-metro has a drought watch advisory and likely will for a bit

RICHMOND, Va. -- Heavy rain in the early morning hours may have sent water rushing over the exposed rocks of the James River, but there is still a drought watch advisory for the Middle James, Roanoke River and Shenandoah regions.

Basically, that means the conditions are there for a drought; rivers, streams and groundwater are much lower than normal.

“It could go either way and could take a while to go either way,” said Bill Hayden with the Department of Environmental Quality.

The drought watch is intended to increase awareness of conditions that likely precede a significant drought event and to facilitate preparation for a drought.

According to the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, the recent spate of dry weather has left rivers and streams with less water and groundwater is significantly lower.

Precipitation totals are 75 percent lower than normal for the past three months across most of the areas covered by the middle James, Roanoke River and Shenandoah regions.

Stream water flows are at least 75 percent lower than previously recorded; which indicates moderate to severe hydrologic drought – a period of below-average water content in streams, aquifers, lakes and soils.

Groundwater levels are between 75 to 95 percent lower than previously recorded September and October levels.

Once there is a more consistent amount of rainfall and the task force measures higher water totals in streams, and there is more water underground, the advisory will be lifted. Over the next week there is nothing higher than a 50 percent chance of rain in the forecast.

But for now, the various monitoring wells used by officials are running very low.

"It's a situation that took a long time to get into. It is going to take a while to get out of it, but conservation will help," Hayden said.  "We will need several weeks of a good, solid, continuing rain, if not more."

James River on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.

James River on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.

Recommendations from the Department of Utilities

"Due to ongoing low water levels in the James River, Henrico County is joining the city of Richmond and Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, and Powhatan counties to implement voluntary water conservation measures," a Department of Public Utilities spokesperson said. 'Voluntary compliance will help water treatment plants in Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield provide water to all customers in the region while also meeting the James River Regional Flow Management Plan."

As part of the measures, homeowners were asked to follow the following schedule when watering their yards:

Monday: No watering

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: Odd-numbered addresses

Wednesday, Friday, Sunday: Even-numbered addresses

James River on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.

James River on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017.

The state also offered this list of Top 10 Water Wasters and what you can do about them:

Check your home plumbing for leaks. A leaky faucet or toilet can waste thousands of gallons per year.

Install water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators, available at your hardware store, if you don’t already have them in place. A shower can use up to 7 gallons of water per minute. Don’t let
the shower run too long while waiting for it to warm up or while soaping up.

Sweep, don’t wash, sidewalks and driveways. Instead of using a hose, use a broom or leaf blower, and save 3-5 gallons of water per minute.

If you need to water your lawn, do it every other day in the early morning hours. This will minimize evaporation and increase water penetration.

When you have to replace a water-using appliance, be sure to install a water-efficient model.

Landscape with plants that require little water and mulch around ornamental plantings to conserve moisture.

Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. You probably only need the water in three short bursts – to rinse your toothbrush initially, to rinse it after use, and to rinse your mouth.

Flush only when needed. Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket.

Install a shut-off nozzle at the end of your hose. Use only the water needed for outdoor tasks, such as washing your car.

Only use dishwashers and washing machines when you have a full load. Water-saving models will allow you to adjust the washer’s water level.