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For Release: Tuesday, September 29, 2020

DEC Announces Southern Tier Added to State Drought Watch List

Five Regions Now on Statewide Drought Watch List

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that the State has expanded its Drought Watch to the Southern Tier drought region, which includes Cattaraugus, Alleghany, Steuben, and Chemung counties. A drought watch remains in effect for Long Island, Upper Hudson/Mohawk, Adirondacks, and Great Lakes/St. Lawrence since Governor Andrew M. Cuomo directed DEC to issue the watch in July after consulting with experts from the State Drought Management Task Force. See a map of New York State drought conditions.

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "DEC urges water users in the Southern Tier and previously designated Drought Watch regions to monitor usage and avoid wasting water. While the watch is just the first stage, it provides New York State agencies and emergency responders advanced notice of a developing drought. We can all do our part to conserve water now by taking simple steps. Minor changes in your everyday routine can go a long way in helping prevent increased drought levels."

A "watch" is the first of four levels of state drought advisories ("watch," "warning," "emergency," and "disaster"). There are no statewide mandatory water use restrictions in place under a drought watch or warning. Local public water suppliers may impose water use restrictions depending upon local needs and conditions and New Yorkers are strongly encouraged to voluntarily conserve water.

Since spring, dry conditions have been documented in most of New York State and reduced precipitation has resulted in reduced water availability and below-average streamflow with many streams seeing record lows for this time of year. Many lake levels are lower than usual and groundwater levels are reduced due to the prolonged dry spell. Some areas have had water shortages with suppliers issuing water use restrictions and supplementing normal sources.

Conservation tips for homeowners to reduce outdoor water usage include:

  1. Fix dripping and leaking faucets and toilets. A faucet leaking 30 drops per minute wastes 54 gallons a month;
  2. Raise lawn mower cutting height. Longer grass needs less water;
  3. If the community allows watering, water lawns and gardens on alternate mornings instead of every day. Less frequent watering will develop grass with deeper roots, and early morning watering minimizes evaporation;
  4. When using automatic lawn watering systems, override the system in wet weather or use a rain gauge to control when and how much water to use. A fixed watering schedule wastes water. Irrigate only when needed to save water and improve the lawn's health; and
  5. Sweep sidewalks and steps rather than hosing them. Eliminating a weekly, five-minute pavement hose-down could save between 625 and 2,500 gallons of water per year depending on the flow rate.

The Drought Management Task Force consists of the Office of Emergency Management, Canal Corporation, the Thruway Authority, and the Departments of Health, Environmental Conservation, and Agriculture and Markets. The United States Geological Survey and National Weather Service provide technical assistance.

The drought watch and warnings are triggered by the State Drought Index, which reflects precipitation levels, reservoir/lake levels, and stream flow and groundwater levels in New York State's nine drought regions. Each of these indicators is assigned a weighted value based on its significance to various uses in a region. For more information, visit DEC's webpage.

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