News Release

COG Declares Regional Drought "Watch"

Sep 9, 2010

Washington, D.C. − As unusually dry conditions persist throughout the region, a drought WATCH was put into effect today by the Drought Coordination Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). Residents and businesses in the metropolitan Washington region are being asked to conserve water and help reduce demand on the region's water supply systems.

The WATCH is the second level of COG’s four-stage regional drought response plan used to monitor water levels and respond to drought conditions throughout the year. (The first level is “NORMAL”. To view all four stages of the plan, click here. Regional officials emphasized that, while there currently is an adequate supply of water in the Potomac River and back-up reservoirs, implementing voluntary water conservation practices across the region will help complement measures already in place and help meet water demand and environmental needs of the River.

"Even though we are approaching fall when the demand for water typically declines, we want to emphasize and encourage the public to continue practicing outdoor and indoor water conservation measures," said Drought Coordination Committee Chair and Fairfax County Executive Anthony H. Griffin. He noted examples of simple ways to save water, including:

  • Limiting the watering of lawns, plants and shrubs;
  • Using a broom instead of a hose to clean sidewalks and driveways;
  • Using a commercial car wash that recycles water;
  • Repairing leaking toilets and faucets;
  • Reducing shower length to under 5 minutes;
  • Turning off water while brushing your teeth; and
  • Washing full loads in dish and clothes washers.

“We urge everyone to follow these common-sense guidelines," said Mr. Griffin.

Based on regional hydrologic models, officials do not anticipate reaching the WARNING or EMERGENCY stages of the regional plan this year for those who get their water from the Potomac River system. The flow in the Potomac River is low but fortunately, due to sound planning by area water utilities and local governments, most of the area is far better prepared to withstand drought than many other regions. Special water supply reservoirs that were constructed in the early 1980s to provide water during droughts are currently full and will be utilized if needed. Experts continue to monitor the situation closely according to established protocols.

Residents and businesses are being asked to use water wisely as part of their daily routines. Increasing conservation efforts now and throughout the year will help optimize use of water resources, especially if dry conditions persist into the fall and winter. A detailed list of tips for wise water use can be found at

Because fire safety and protection is also of particular concern due to dry conditions, particularly from wildfires and brushfires, committee members encourage residents to use extra caution when smoking outside, using outdoor grills or engaging in other activities that involve flammable materials.

Background Information

Record high temperatures this summer combined with below normal precipitation affected streamflow and groundwater levels throughout the entire Potomac River Basin. Precipitation over the past month is 50 percent below normal and has dropped more than four inches below normal in the past 90 days. River flows are also well below normal levels, and the NOAA Climate Prediction Center has declared 94% percent of the Potomac River Basin to be abnormally to extremely dry. Little to no rain is predicted over the next 14 days.

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