Oct 28, 2023

Winchester issues drought watch, urges water conservation

The city of Winchester has issued a “drought watch” as parts of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River flow lower than usual and dry conditions linger in the region.

According to a post on the city’s Facebook page, the drought watch went into effect Tuesday. The post includes a graphic outlining some water-saving tips city residents can use to help conserve water at home and in their yards.

“Effective Tuesday, August 22, the City of Winchester is operating under a drought watch due to recent climatic conditions and water supply levels measured at the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Do your part and help reduce the City’s water use by 5%,” the post states.

The U.S Drought Monitor at — a joint effort of the National Drought Mitigation Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — shows Winchester is in a moderate drought. Parts of Frederick County are experiencing a moderate drought as well, particularly in the southeastern corridor, while other areas of the county are characterized as abnormally dry.

For a drought watch to be enacted in Winchester, water flow in the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, the primary source of water for the city, must fall below 80 cubic feet per second for five consecutive days. As of Friday afternoon, the flow had dropped below that metric for two days in a row, Winchester Public Services Director Perry Eisenach previously said. The Winchester area did not receive any rainfall over the weekend, Weather Underground shows online.

Winchester’s drought response plan has three stages — drought watch, warning, and emergency — so lower water levels in the North Fork could prompt further issuances from the city. The Shenandoah River, which is 56 miles long and includes two forks, is a major tributary in the region and feeds the Potomac River.

Parts of the northern Shenandoah Valley are behind on normal averages of rainfall this year. The Winchester Star recently reported measurements taken at Winchester’s water treatment plant showed the area has received 17.38 inches of rain in 2023. That’s 68% of the 25.55 inches the area typically receives through mid-August, records show.

The city on Tuesday joined other localities in the region that are encouraging or requiring residents to conserve water. Low levels in the North Fork of the Shenandoah River last week led the town of Strasburg to declare a drought emergency condition, The Northern Virginia Daily reported.

On Friday, the town of Front Royal, which is on the Shenandoah River’s South Fork, issued an alert asking residents and businesses to take voluntary water conservation efforts.

In Clarke County, officials last week asked for voluntary water conservation as some parts of the county are experiencing a drought and others are unusually dry.

Per its water purchasing agreement with the city of Winchester, Frederick Water also issued a drought watch on Tuesday. The agreement enables water purchases from either party as needed, such as during times of emergencies or water main breaks.

“While we are fortunate to have a variety of raw water sources at our disposal, we must look beyond the borders of our County and consider the impacts of dry weather conditions on our region as a whole. The City of Winchester, with whom we share a water purchasing agreement, has issued a Drought Watch,” read a post on Frederick Water’s website.

The post continues: “In accordance with that agreement and a firm commitment to responsible stewardship, we encourage our customers to participate in voluntary water conservation practices.”

According to Winchester’s website, the following are voluntary activities the city recommends residents consider when a drought watch is in effect:

Mow lawns to two inches or more and leave clippings (higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper to hold soil moisture better than closely clipped lawn)

Use mulch around plants to reduce evaporation

Aerate lawn to reduce evaporation

Avoid over fertilizing your lawn. Fertilizer applications increase the need for water. Apply fertilizers that contain slow‐release, water‐insoluble forms of nitrogen.

Place rain barrels under gutter downspouts to collect water for plants, car washing, or general cleaning projects

Plant native or dry‐loving (xeric) plants in landscaping

Do not use the garbage disposal

Use automatic dishwasher only when load is full

Limit showers to 5 to 10 minutes per day per person

Avoid running water to get cold a temperature and keep a pitcher of cold water in fridge

Wrap hot water heater and pipes with insulating material

Install faucet aerators

— Contact Cormac Dodd

at [email protected]

"Effective Tuesday, August 22, the City of Winchester is operating under a drought watch due to recent climatic conditions and water supply levels measured at the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Do your part and help reduce the City’s water use by 5%."

City of Winchester

I see Water and sewer are still going up in our area. I see it says some used for the infrastructure of water system in City. How many times has this been accounted for by Grants and stimulus packages and yet never done? Where is this money going?

It has conltinued for years now for no reason but to keep asking for more money through increases on billing. ON a ticket given to you by the city fo a violation of any sort they is a charge to you for the restoration of the court house.Why do i need to pay for it? Does our Local Government do anything other than spend our money. A $40 ticket turns into a $110 ticket because of the extra charges they add to it.You are paying court cost even though you did not use the Court. You are paying them extra to even accept you money? Wher did the charges come from and who's pockets are they going to?

Heard this problem years ago but you have done nothing but build more for water usuage.We do not need to be a Little Washington. I would think that these carwashes will have a hefty rain tax? Mabe that is why we are getting one?

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