GREENVILLE Pa. official warns of drought

Mercer County is under a drought watch, but Lawrence County has normal water resources.
GREENVILLE, Pa. -- All but five of Pennsylvania's 67 counties are experiencing drought-related conditions, and a state official said it's time to take stock of water resources and develop a plan.
David E. Hess, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, was the guest speaker Tuesday at the Shenango Conservancy's annual dinner at Greenville Country Club, and he brought a warning.
"As we gather in Greenville today, 24 of the state's 67 counties are in a drought emergency, marking the fifth time in the past seven years that drought conditions have reached emergency levels," he said.
"Most of northwestern Pennsylvania is either under a drought watch or a drought warning. Pennsylvania needs to take stock of its water resources, develop a water budget and plan for the future," Hess said.
Mercer County is under a drought watch, but Lawrence County is rated as having normal water resources.
There are 24 counties under drought-emergency status, seven under a drought warning, and 31 under a drought watch. A warning is more severe than a watch.
Pennsylvania needs to develop a water conservation ethic in response to worsening conditions, Hess said.
He encouraged large industrial and commercial water users with their own private water supplies to develop drought contingency plans.
Those aren't required yet by the state, but they would be useful in the event of a mandatory reduction of water use. The plans should identify ground and surface water sources and how the sources are used. They should also show how the users could reduce water usage by from 5 percent to 50 percent, Hess said.
The state had public water forums last year to learn about resource needs, and those findings are the basis of Gov. Mark Schweiker's proposed water resources legislation calling for updating the state water plan, identifying critical water planning areas, promoting voluntary conservation, improving storm-water management and establishing private water well standards.

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