Drought Concerns Loom

My stream disappeared a couple of weeks ago. I’ve lived here for a couple of years now, and this is the first time that the little brook has simply disappeared. For the second summer running my wife and I have a good-sized little garden, and this year I’ve had to water it every day — very rarely does enough fall out the sky to do the trick.

Josh Barney wrote in the Daily Progress a couple of days ago that the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority is starting to get worried — water usage is way up, and the rain’s just not coming. The reservoirs were hit for a record 14.3 million gallons on Friday, while they’re down to storing 82% of capacity. Neither is any reason to panic, assuming that we get a nice rainy fall.

I’ve been keeping an eye on stream flow levels, using the USGS’ National Water Information System, and they just keep dropping. The Rivanna is down to 1.13 ft/sec discharge, compared to the 12-year mean for this date of 293 ft/sec. The last time that it was this low was 2002, when we were in the throes of drought. The Moormans is even worse: 0.363 ft/sec, the lowest it’s been this time of year in the eighteen years it’s been monitored. Normally it’d be 143 ft/sec this time of year. Ground water levels keep dropping — it was at 29.75 feet a month ago, and now it’s at 31.25 feet. It’s once it starts dropping below people’s wells that there’s trouble.

The good news is that there’s a hurricane on the way. If we’re lucky, Hurricane Ernesto will weaken over land and dump a few inches of rain on us, which will help to recharge the reservoir. It’ll take a lot more than that over a much longer period to recharge our ground water, but it’d be a start.

08/30 Update: 6″-12″ of rain is forecast to fall on Friday, the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto. I believe I’ll be taking credit for this reversal for fortune.