Under a framework established under an executive order, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to issue a heightened drought warning for most of Western New York. In response, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos issued a drought warning for western state drought regions VI, VII and VIII. These regions include the following counties in Western New York: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Erie, Genesee, Jefferson, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Onondaga, Ontario, Orleans, Oswego, Seneca, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.
Seggos issued the warning after consulting with experts from the State Drought Management Task Force and federal technical agencies. The remainder of the state remains under a previously declared drought watch.
"Recent rains helped to reduce the severity of drought conditions in the eastern portion of NY. However, much of Western NY did not receive large rainfall amounts over the past weekend and continues to experience significant drought conditions with extremely low stream flows and reduced groundwater levels," Cuomo said. "Residents throughout the state should continue to conserve water whenever possible during the coming months."
A "warning" is the second 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, but citizens are strongly encouraged to voluntarily conserve water. Local public water suppliers may impose water use restrictions depending upon local needs and conditions.
Seggos said, "While there are no mandated water use restrictions in place, we do encourage the public to do their part to conserve water by taking some fairly simple steps. Minor changes in everyday practices can go a long way in helping to prevent any increased drought levels."
The following are some conservation tips homeowners can take to reduce their outdoor water usage:
•Fix dripping and leaking faucets and toilets. A faucet leaking 30 drops per minute wastes 54 gallons a month.
•Raise your lawn mower cutting height. Longer grass needs less water.
•If your 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. 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. It saves water and can actually improve your lawn's health.
•Sweep sidewalks and steps rather than hosing them. Eliminating a weekly 5-minute pavement hose-down could save between 625 and 2,500 gallons of water per year depending on the flow rate.
For more water saving tips, visit DEC's webpage at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5009.html.
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 the nine drought regions of the state. Each of these indicators is assigned a weighted value based on its significance to various uses in a region. For more detailed drought information, visit DEC's webpage at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5011.html.