Lack of Rain Leaves Area Parched

Lack of Rain Leaves Area Parched

As the wet season drags on with not a cloud in the sky and streams go from raging streams to a trickle, the area remains only in a "watch" stage according to water officials.

Jim Warfield, the executive officer of the Fairfax County Water Authority, just wants people to be aware.

"All the water resource people are keeping an eye on it. There's no restrictions in place but we're asking people to be prudent," Warfield said.

It was confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that "during the week ending Feb. 26, more than two inches of rain fell at many locations in an area centered on the southern Appalachians, temporarily boosting stream flows and providing slight relief from long-term drought," according to its Web site.

It's news to Katherine Abregu, who is an avid gardener in Fairfax and notices the lack of rain in the area.

"A lot of bulbs aren't coming up, my perennials and ground cover. I did see neighbors washing their car, one lady was filling their pond up," she said.

According to the USGS, stream flows are below normal at 87 percent of the gauging stations in Maryland and Delaware and 100 percent of the ground water observation wells in the two states are below normal. In addition, the amount of water entering the Chesapeake Bay is at the second lowest level for February since 1937. That is down 10.28 inches since Sept. 1, 2001.

The National Weather Service confirmed the lack of precipitation for the winter.

"Precipitation remains below normal over the last three months to a year," as stated on the Web site.

Shahram Mohsenin, the director of Fairfax city's Department of Utilities. Mohsenin did distinguish the difference between a winter drought and a summer drought. The water is used much more in the summer months.

"What we have now is a winter drought, '98-'99 was summer, there was more demand on the water," he said, indicating pools, plants, watering lawns and washing cars are popular summer activities that put a strain on the water supply.

"That puts a demand on the system," he said.

Springfield resident Bob Teske has been through several summers in this area.

"Makes you wonder what the summer's going to be like," he said.

The last summer drought in 1998 and 1999 caused the Council of Governments to form a task force to focus on water use. It consists of representatives from Alexandria; Arlington; Washington, D.C.; College Park; Falls Church; Fairfax City; and Fairfax, Frederick and Montgomery counties. They focus on an overall effect.

"Everybody has been put on a watch," he said, but stressed conservation at all times to save the resource.

"Even then it's good to wisely use the water," he said.

Although the Potomac River levels are lower than normal, rainfall upstream is adequate. "The streams are definitely low but there's enough water upstream in the Potomac," said Matt Myers of the Fairfax County Department of Public Works.

<mh>Fairfax City

<bt>While plants are withering and showers are shortened, the City of Fairfax remains unscathed because of its 25-mile pipeline into a reservoir near the Appalachian Mountains.

"We're not facing a shortage of water at this time," said Mohsenin.

The reservoir supplies all the water to city residents and sells some in Fairfax County, such as to residents that live along Hunter Mill Road, according to Mohsenin.

"It's a very small amount," he said.

The city's 200-million-gallon reservoir and treatment facility is on Goose Creek in Loudoun County. The city even has a reserve supply in the 1.3-billion-gallon reservoir on Beaverdam Creek, which is in the same area in Loudoun. In that area, the rainfall has been greater, so the reservoirs have remained full through the dry fall. The city started these reservoirs 40 years ago.

"Their source of water is near the Shenandoah, and they've had more precipitation than we have," according to city information specialist Todd Hoffman.