August 28, 2008

Tropical Storm Fay Won’t End Drought

The creek that runs across the eighth hole at Countryside Golf Club in Roanoke was dry Monday evening. The remnants of Tropical Storm Fay might have provided some water to it temporarily, but recent rain will not end the drought that lingers over Southwest Virginia.

So Rocky Mount officials this week imposed mandatory conservation. The town's water source, the Blackwater River, hit a historic low Monday. It's not alone. Both the Roanoke and New rivers are flowing far below historic levels for this time of year.

Meanwhile, regional reservoirs such as Carvins Cove and Spring Hollow Reservoir are below capacity, though they are not yet in dire straits.

Homeowners in the region can be forgiven if watching their lawns turn brown makes them want to turn on the sprinklers. We urge them to resist that temptation. Most communities might not have a mandatory conservation program, but they all will benefit from voluntary action that preserves a precious resource and forestalls the possibility of stricter measures.

Modest conservation adds up. Don't run dishwashers and washing machines unless they are full. Don't wash cars with a hose, and water lawns and plants less frequently. Particularly ambitious conservationists might put a bucket in the shower with them and use the collected water on their fall chrysanthemums and pansies.

Rain yesterday and forecast for today might fool people into thinking the worst is over and conservation is no longer necessary, but one brief period of precipitation is not enough. Only several persistent rains or a few downpours will restore water to healthier levels in the region.

And if doing what is best for the community and the environment does not convince residents to save a few gallons, maybe a little self-interest will. Using less water translates into lower water bills.

Southwest Virginia remains in a drought, and things could get worse quickly. The more water residents forgo, the less likely the region will enter a water crisis.

(c) 2008 Roanoke Times & World News. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.