Carbon County has seen the effects of lower than normal rainfalls over the summer.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Commissioner Wayne Nothstein provided an update on the drought warning that was issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection last Thursday. A drought warning is issued when areas see a significant precipitation deficit as a result of little to no rainfall over a 90-day period. In some counties throughout Pennsylvania, deficits are as great as 5.6 inches below normal.

Nothstein said that Beltzville Lake, located near Lehighton, is down 15 feet as a result of dam releases that are needed to keep the salt water levels down in the rivers; as well as evaporation.

On Wednesday, officials at the lake closed the boat launches at Beltzville for the season because levels were so low.

Nothstein also said that Mauch Chunk Lake is experiencing lower than normal levels. Last week, the lake was down a total of 50 inches, but as of yesterday, the lake was showing that it was down 54 inches.

"It looks like the lake is losing a half inch a day," he said. "I want to remind everyone, especially in the west side of Jim Thorpe, that is where the water supply comes from for Jim Thorpe."

Nothstein added that the Lehigh River is also operating on less than half of its normal flow.

"As of Wednesday, the river was flowing at 169 cubic feet per second, which equates to 76,000 gallons per minute," he said. "The average (normal flow of the Lehigh) over a 27-year period is 167,000 gallons a minute."

Mark Nalesnik, Carbon County Emergency Management Agency coordinator, also noted that he was told the recreation pool at the Francis E. Walter Dam is completely used up.

He and Nothstein urge residents to try to conserve water usage when they can until the county gets a significant rainfall.

"It's necessary to conserve water at this point," Nalesnik said.

Four burn bans have also been put into place in municipalities throughout the county as a result of the drier than normal conditions. Those municipalities include Nesquehoning, Bowmanstown, East Penn Township and Jim Thorpe.

To conserve water, DEP suggests fixing any leaks in household plumbing, installing low-flow or aerators nozzles on shower heads and faucets, taking short showers instead of baths, replacing older washers with front loading washers, running the dishwasher and washing machine only when they are full, avoid running water excessively.

For more tips on conserving water, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: drought.

In a related matter, Nothstein also announced that there is help for farmers that have been affected by the drought.

He read a portion of a press release from Speaker of the House Keith McCall (D-Carbon), stating that farmers in Carbon County are eligible to apply for low-interest emergency disaster assistance loans from the federal Department of Agriculture to help recover crop losses associated with the summer's dry weather.

To apply for the loan, farmers need to contact the Carbon County Farm Service Agency in Lehighton at (610) 377-6300 or visit www.fsa.usda.gov.

Farmers have eight months from Sept. 10, to apply for the loans, the press release states.