With much of the northeast experiencing scorching temperatures, high humidity and little to no precipitation, Carbon County is among the growing number of counties that have been placed on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's drought list.
Mark Nalesnik, the Carbon County Emergency Management Agency director, released an updated drought map from DEP yesterday.
According to the composite indicator map, dated July 6, numerous counties throughout the eastern portion of the state are in a drought watch or warning. Carbon County is listed in a drought watch.
A drought watch declaration is the first level and least severe of the state's three drought classifications. It calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction in non-essential water use. The classifications are dependent on four indicators, including precipitation deficits, surface water levels, groundwater levels and soil moisture. Drought watch conditions begin to occur when a deficit of 25 percent of the normal precipitation happens over a three-month period. Drought warning conditions occur when a deficit of 35 percent is recorded and drought emergency conditions begin to happen when a deficit of 45 percent is recorded.
Nalesnik recommends that Carbon County residents try to conserve water, if possible, until the drought situation improves.
He noted that there are three burn bans currently in place in the county. They include Mahoning Township, Bowmanstown and Lower Towamensing Township.
"I strongly recommend not burning trash or having camp fires at this time," Nalesnik said. "Since water supplies may become limited, I am concerned about water shortages for firefighting, so please avoid unnecessary use of water and do not be careless with fires."
Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein echoes Nalesnik's thoughts.
"I would strongly urge residents to start to conserve water, especially those on wells. Even if we do get some showers this week it will not be enough to get us out of the watch," said Nothstein.
"We have been watching the situation and will continue to monitor rainfall events and act accordingly."
He also suggests that all water authorities and suppliers review their contingency plans and update them as needed.
Nothstein added that he is anticipating calling a meeting for Carbon County's Drought Task Force, a group the county reorganized in 2007, when Carbon County was classified in a drought watch.
The group looks at the water resources in the area to determine the severity of the drought in the county.
This includes seeing how many wells have gone dry and how far they would have to drill to reach the water table.
It also includes watching the river, creeks, lakes and dam levels.
In times of a drought watch, area residents can help conserve water by taking shorter showers, washing only full loads of laundry, watering lawns and gardens only when it is necessary and using water sparingly during daily routines.
Some relief is possible over the next few days, as meteorologists are calling for a cold front to move through the area, bringing the chance of thunderstorms and showers.
According to the National Weather Service, there is a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms this evening and tonight. Tomorrow and Saturday call for scattered showers and thunderstorms throughout the afternoon.