Prove your humanity

Pennsylvania is under a statewide drought watch.

The state finally got some rain in the last week, but the Department of Environmental Protection says it’s not enough to make up for low precipitation last winter and spring.

“We’re seeing lowered stream flows, dropping groundwater levels, and persistent precipitation deficits,” said DEP Acting Secretary Rich Negrin. “Water conservation, always a good practice, is especially helpful now as it’ll lessen potential future impacts on water supplies if rainfall continues to be scant this summer.”

DEP says 18 public water suppliers are asking for voluntary water conservation in their communities.

During a drought watch, the focus is on increased monitoring, awareness and preparation in case conditions get worse. People are asked to curb their nonessential water use by 5-10% in this stage.

DEP recommends these actions to conserve water:

  • Run the dishwasher and washing machine less often and only with full loads.
  • Don’t let the faucet run while brushing your teeth or shaving. Take shorter showers. For example, consider not washing your hair daily.
  • Water your lawn only if necessary. Avoid watering on windy and hot days. Watering grass lightly and efficiently will encourage healthier, deeper grass roots. Overwatering is wasteful, encourages fungal growth and disease, and results in shallow, compacted root systems that are more susceptible to drought.
  • When mowing your lawn, set the blades 2-3 inches high. Longer grass shades the soil, improving moisture retention.
  • Water your garden less often. If necessary, water only in the cooler evening or morning hours, and direct the water to the ground at the base of the plant. Focus on new plantings, which have shallow root systems. Older plants may endure dry conditions longer.
  • Skip the car washing. If you have to wash your car, it’s better environmentally to go to a drive-through car wash that recycles the water.
  • Sweep your sidewalk, deck, or driveway, instead of hosing it off.
  • Check for and repair household leaks. For example, a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water daily.
  • Set up a rain barrel to be ready to repurpose rain when it does fall. Or just set out a bucket to capture water in the event of rain and reuse it to water plants or the bird bath.

People can find updates on conditions on DEP’s drought web page.

The dry conditions are contributing to increased brush fires in the state.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says this year’s wildfires have burned more than 8,500 acres, compared to 2,700 acres last year.

“We’ve had an unprecedented year for wildfires in the Commonwealth, and we encourage all Pennsylvanians to act responsibly to prevent wildfires as dry conditions persist,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said.

This story is produced in partnership with StateImpact Pennsylvania, a collaboration among The Allegheny Front, WPSU, WITF and WHYY to cover the commonwealth's energy economy.