RWSA Declares Drought Watch

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority declared a Drought Watch yesterday, prompting the city to voluntarily institute its own conservation measures, presumably more to set an example than anything else. The RWSA’s reservoir level report for today (Word file) indicates that the reservoirs are just about full, but the fear of the 2002 drought must loom large in the collective mind of the city.

12 Responses to “RWSA Declares Drought Watch”


  • I guess I just don’t get this, but how can they declare a drought watch when the local reservoirs are 98.2% full? I’d think you’d wanna wait until they were AT LEAST 10% under capacity before ramping the drought panic machinery. I mean, one good rain puts us back at 100%, no?

    While the memory of the drought does indeed loom large, few seem to remember just how quickly the reservoirs filled up when the rains came (and came and came). If memory serves, no reservoir was ever under 50% capacity in ’02 anyway.

    Might it have been much ado?

  • Well, the reservoirs drop by about half a percent each day. But what I don’t know is how many inches of rain equal how many inches of water in the reservoir. I don’t think I ever managed to figure that out back in ’02.

  • I’m gonna play the cynic here (as I usually do) and remind everyone how after those last water conservation efforts succeeded so well during the last big drought the RSWA rewarded all of it’s frugal consumers by asking for and getting a rate hike (ostensibly to offset the losses caused by conservation).

    They should just go ahead, cut to the chase and ask for a rate hike if that’s really what they want and stop with the drought scare talk.

  • The water draw is difficult to predict because trees can drink so much water, when they choose to. That’s what I read last time. The reservoirs dropped more than expected. I think it was around this time of year. Also, some expert was worried about a catastrophe where the water table goes below a certain level and every bit of water drops into a bottomless hole or something. It was almost that bad. You could step across the river just above the main reservoir (S. Fork Rivanna). This was three years ago, right?

    At the same time, the county approved Hollymead Town Center.

    At the same time it was revealed Pepsi was the number one private water user. They were selling us back that water in restaurants on the Downtown Mall that refused to give us glasses of water or let us use their restrooms, assuming we would not drink water and use restrooms when we got home. The restaurants were forced or coerced into that position by quotas based on past usage.

    Meanwhile all attention was on the Express Car Wash.

    One more rant here… yesterday UVa was sprinkling its lawns in the heat of midday, when loss by evaporation is at its highest.

    One more… those rain barrels really work if you need water for your garden. During a short heavy rain last month I easily overflowed a 100 gallon tank, from just a portion of a medium-sized roof.

    Our watershed is not unlike that roof. We are up here at the headwaters, so it is a more volatile situation than drinking stable James River effluvia in Richmond.

    Which reminds me… has anybody mentioned how much *energy* the James River draw-off for Louisa and Fluvanna will use? Looks like it’s about a 320 foot rise to Zion Crossroads and oodles of lateral miles and water is *heavy*! Don’t cross flooded roads! Wait, you won’t have to worry about that this summer.

  • Actually, I think the trees were drinking a lot in the early Fall. Oh, it’s something about when they are more dormant and when they are getting ready for winter. Bah, memory hazy here.

  • At the same time, the county approved Hollymead Town Center.

    You said a mouthful there. It’s totally, totally insane for the county to be simultaneously facing a serious water shortage and approve a development of that size.

  • Anyone remember this?

    Rising Reservoir Baffles Officials Nov 19 2001

    “The water supply has risen from 68.2% to 70.7% of capacity during the past week. But it hasn’t rained in 30 days.

    Albemarle service authority director Bill Brent theorized that the ground water flow into the reservoir had increased because trees are becoming dormant for winter.”

    “Full and Overflowing: Near Drought Over, Christmas Miracle Dec 20 2001

    “The South Rivanna reservoir was “full and overflowing” on December 3rd as reported on WINA radio. Albemarle service authority director Bill Brent confessed he had no good explanation since there had been no significant rain. Only three weeks before, media warned of imminent mandatory water restrictions. The miraculous recharging of our water supply has not received the same fanfare. […]

    Change in Volume [water supply] = Inflow – Outflow
    = Runoff + Underground flow
    – Consumption – Discharge downstream
    – Evaporation – Sedimentation

    […]
    Underground water flow has proven to be the significant unknown, this the third dry autumn in a row. […]”

  • One more thing. If reservoirs drop a half percent a day, we have about 60 days until mandatory restrictions if last drought is a guide. 70% was the trigger in ’02 up from 65% trigger in ’01. And theoretically we have about 200 days of supply right now.

  • I live in Fluvanna County, and the amount of water coming down to the Rivanna is next to nil. The water gauge at bridge near Lake Monticello says it running at less than 2.5 feet, there is almost no flow, and the suface is covered with big patches of scum. (Nor does it smell too tasty coming through the faucet these days.) I realize that we’ve had virtually no rain, but even when we have a good thunderstorm, the level doesn’t really come up as it normally would. Are they holding more water into the resevoir to keep the level up?

  • Also note that today’s capacity is 98.1% down a whopping one-tenth of one percent from yesterday’s 98.2%. I don’t believe there was any rain.

    Clearly there are some variables at work here whose measurement has yet to be mastered.

  • I agree 100% with colfer. We have a water problem, yet the City and County keep approving all these new developments that will use water, and lots of it. There are plans for more sources, but thats down the road. And by that time there will be even more demand.
    I will comply if there is a drought emergency, But right now I don’t feel guilty at all to water a plant or flush the toilet. And the statement about lawn sprinkling was right on. I see so much water wasted, going into the street because people insist on having these ecologically sterile and boring expanses of grass. And that doesnt even take into account all the toxins going into soil, water, and air from all the chemicals used to maintain these damn outdoor carpets. Give me the dandelions and violets anyday. And the butterfly larvae, rabbits,bees, and other critters that depend on them for life.

  • Well, guess this continual deluge means we won’t have to worry about a drought, at least for awhile. This reminds me of the devastating rain and floods of ’95, where there was loss of life in some surrounding counties , and the bridge between Greene and Madison counties completely washed away.

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