DEQ issues drought warning for Page County

Drought Warning
Local officials are warning that if the drought conditions persist, mandatory restrictions may become necessary to ensure adequate supply of drinking water from the aquifers.

~ PVN staff report

LURAY, Aug. 30 — A lack of rainfall and a prolonged period of high temperatures expected to extend into next week prompted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue a drought warning for Page County on Wednesday, which includes the entire Shenandoah Drought Evaluation Region.

Virginia is divided into 13 drought evaluation regions and monitored by DEQ through the Virginia Drought Monitoring Task Force, which is responsible for making drought stage declarations. While much of the commonwealth is rated “normal”, drought watch advisories are in place for the Eastern Shore, Northern Virginia and the York-James drought evaluation regions.

A drought warning — the highest level assigned at this time — is currently in place for the Shenandoah drought evaluation region, which include Page County (roughly in the center of the region stretching down the Shenandoah Valley).

The Town of Shenandoah shared the announcement late Wednesday afternoon through social media.

“Effective August 30, 2023, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued a drought warning for Page County, including the Town of Shenandoah,” the statement reads. “Very little rain and above average temperatures are expected for the next week or longer. If you drive over the Shenandoah River bridge or visit the boat landing, the exceptionally low water level is obvious.”

Town residents and local businesses are being asked to “voluntarily reduce your water usage.”

“Shenandoah’s potable water source is from a ground aquifer which has not adequately been replenished by rainfall,” the Town’s press release states. “We must ensure that our aquifer levels do not reach critically low levels.”

In an effort to conserve water and prevent supplies from reaching critical or emergency levels, officials in the Town of Shenandoah are asking their residents to follow these guidelines:

  • NO vehicle washing.
  • Do NOT fill swimming pools or hot tubs.
  • Limit the number and length of showers per day.
  • Purchase water-saving shower heads.
  • Limit watering vegetable gardens to once per day, either morning or afternoon, to reduce evaporation.
  • NO watering lawns or flower gardens.
  • Repair any leaking faucets or toilets as soon as possible.

“If the drought continues, mandatory water restrictions will go into effect,” the Town stated in the press release. “Every drop you can save counts. Let’s all hope for some much-needed rainfall soon. The Town appreciates your cooperation as we get through this exceptionally dry period together. If we are conscious of our water usage, we can lessen the impact of this drought.”

No such statements or water restriction recommendations have been issued by the county, or the towns of Luray and Stanley.

With below average rainfall over the last six months, the Virginia Cooperative Extension estimates that Page County farmers have suffered more than $4.8 million in late summer hay and pastureland losses. Crop yields are expected to be below average, and groundwater supplies are dwindling, according to an Aug. 3 report.

“The current drought has resulted in many farmers over-grazing their pastureland. Many farmers have begun to feed hay that was supposed to be this winter’s feeding,” Associate Extension Agent Elisabeth Baldwin stated in the Aug. 3 letter to the county.

“The impact of this drought will be felt for months to come,” Baldwin continued. “Brood cows may not breed back as efficiently due to the increased stress and poor body condition associated with limited forage intakes.”

Yields for corn, soybeans and vegetable crops are all expected to below average, but Baldwin said it was too early to give specific estimates of losses. Baldwin told supervisors earlier this month that Page County’s hay production was cut in half by the drought, meaning a loss of more than 18,000 tons.

The associate extension agent reported that 2023 has been the 11th driest summer in Page County over the last 129 years. She stated that 98 percent of the county’s land mass has been in “moderate drought” this summer. That report was issued in early August.



County appeals to Governor for ‘agricutural disaster’ relief from $5M in losses due to drought

Farmers and Virginia’s water health to benefit in new fiscal year

Drought watch advisory lifted for majority of Virginia

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