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Statewide Drought Watch List Reaches Five Regions

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has expanded its drought watch to the Southern Tier drought region, which includes Cattaraugus, Alleghany, Steuben, and Chemung counties.

A drought watch remains in effect for Long Island, Upper Hudson/Mohawk, Adirondacks, and Great Lakes/St. Lawrence since Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the DEC to issue the watch in July after consulting with experts from the State Drought Management Task Force.

“DEC urges water users in the Southern Tier and previously designated Drought Watch regions to monitor usage and avoid wasting water,” said Basil Seggos, state DEC commissioner. “While the watch is just the first stage, it provides New York state agencies and emergency responders advanced notice of a developing drought. We can all do our part to conserve water now by taking simple steps. Minor changes in your everyday routine can go a long way in helping prevent increased drought levels.”

A “watch” is the first of four levels of state drought advisories (“watch,” “warning,” “emergency,” and “disaster”). There are no statewide mandatory water use restrictions in place under a drought watch or warning. Local public water suppliers may impose water use restrictions depending upon local needs and conditions and New Yorkers are strongly encouraged to voluntarily conserve water.

Since spring, dry conditions have been documented in most of New York state and reduced precipitation has resulted in reduced water availability and below-average streamflow with many streams seeing record lows for this time of year. Many lake levels are lower than usual and groundwater levels are reduced due to the prolonged dry spell. Some areas have had water shortages with suppliers issuing water use restrictions and supplementing normal sources.

Conservation tips for homeowners to reduce outdoor water usage include:

¯ Fix dripping and leaking faucets and toilets. A faucet leaking 30 drops per minute wastes 54 gallons a month;

¯ Raise lawn mower cutting height. Longer grass needs less water;

¯ If the community allows watering, water lawns and gardens on alternate mornings instead of every day. Less frequent watering will develop grass with deeper roots, and early morning watering minimizes evaporation;

¯ When using automatic lawn watering systems, override the system in wet weather or use a rain gauge to control when and how much water to use. A fixed watering schedule wastes water. Irrigate only when needed to save water and improve the lawn’s health

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