The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued a drought watch for Loudoun County and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, citing abnormally dry conditions from November through February and low groundwater levels.
According to the DEQ alert, the watch is meant to make the public aware of “conditions that are likely to precede a significant drought event and to facilitate preparation for a drought.” The watch affects only water systems reliant on groundwater. Loudoun Water and the Town of Leesburg primarily pull water from the Potomac River, which is not subject to the alert.
The DEQ warns that while public and private water supplies are in good shape right now, conditions could deteriorate in the spring and summer. The agency has cautioned well owners and water suppliers to minimize nonessential water use, review local water conservation and drought contingency plans, and aggressively find and repair leaks.
The next stage after a “drought watch” is a “drought warning,” which would be required if a significant drought is imminent. According to DEQ, water conservation and contingency plans would begin to be implemented. In accordance with the state’s Drought Assessment and Response Plan, water conservation activities at the drought watch stage would generally be voluntary, but this does not preclude localities issuing mandatory restrictions.