Page County declares emergency, restrictions on water usage ‘encouraged and requested’

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By Randy Arrington

LURAY, Sept. 8 — It was the summer of 2012 the last time that Page County recorded temperatures of 100 degrees or more. While this past week’s high temperatures flirted with three digits, it never quite topped the century mark, ranging from 97 to 99 degrees from Sunday through Friday’s expected high. However, the larger concern is the lack of rain, currently 10 inches below the year-to-date average. These conditions prompted Page County officials to declare a state of emergency on Thursday.

“Whereas, having met criteria for declaration of a local drought warning, pursuant to Sec. 122-5 (Drought Management Ordinance) of the Page County Code, a drought warning is declared. Under a declared drought warning, restrictions on water usage are encouraged and requested,” states a Sept. 7 resolution signed by Page County Administrator Amity Moler, who also serves as the county’s Director of Emergency Management.

The resolution signed Thursday represents the county’s “Declaration of Local Emergency, Drought Warning and Recommendation Against Open Air Burning.” It states that, “The severely dry conditions that currently exist are favorable for rapid fire spread, which has the potential to impact life safety, cause peril to property, and create significant widespread fire hazard conditions…”

The lack of rainfall and a prolonged period of high temperatures prompted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue a drought warning for Page County on Aug. 30, which includes the entire Shenandoah Drought Evaluation Region. The Town of Shenandoah issued a notice to Town residents and local businesses the next day asking them 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 Aug. 31 press release states. “We must ensure that our aquifer levels do not reach critically low levels.”

Now, county officials are asking the same thing of county residents.

“Now, therefore, it is hereby proclaimed that a state of local emergency exists throughout Page County, that a drought warning is declared, and open-air burning is declared a hazard to the public safety and welfare to the citizens of Page County,” the Sept. 7 resolution states.

“It is further hereby proclaimed that restrictions on water usage by the citizens and businesses of Page County are declared to be in the public interest for the safety and welfare of the citizens of Page County.”

While Shenandoah National Park has not yet banned campfires, park officials are urging visitors to “practice extreme caution.” Like everywhere across the region, high temperatures and drought conditions have created a high fire danger within the park where “brush fires can get out of control and fires will spread quickly.” Park officials recommend that visitors park on asphalt or gravel, rather than grassy areas.

“Being aware of the obvious like cigarettes and campfires is certainly something we want everyone to do, but it’s also important to pay attention to other less obvious hazards,” Shenandoah Fire Technician Joe Jarrells said.

Fires are prohibited in the park except in park-built fire grates in picnic areas, campgrounds, and at other facilities. Visitors should be certain those fires are extinguished completely before leaving. Officials recommend dousing the fire with water, then stirring it to spread the coals. Don’t leave until the area has cooled completely. 

Shenandoah National Park reported receiving less than two inches of rain in July and August. To date, the park has had 25.94 inches of rain, considerably off the mark to reach the yearly average of 56.54.  

As Shenandoah’s busiest month approaches along with the fall fire season, park officials are asking for the public’s help in preventing wildfires. If you see smoke or fire in the park, please call the emergency phone line: 800-732-0911. 

Page County officials said they will continue to monitor “drought and atmospheric conditions” to “justify the continuation of the local state of emergency and drought warning.” However, for now…and even if we get some rain this weekend as forecast…Page County officials are asking residents to refrain from the following activities to help mitigate the effects of high heat and drought conditions:

  • Use of water for washing or cleaning of mobile equipment, including automobiles, trucks, trailers and boats, except in licensed commercial vehicle wash facilities;
  • Washing paved surfaces such as streets, roads, sidewalks, driveways, garages, parking areas, tennis courts, and patios except where mandated by state or local ordinance or when performed by a licensed commercial power-washing company.
  • Irrigation of landscaping and lawns, including the use of outside, automatic irrigation systems, including in-ground systems, hoses, and oscillating sprinklers, for all established lawns, trees, plants, shrubs, and home gardens. Recommend the watering of outside established trees, plants, shrubs, and home gardens by manually using a non-leaking hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle, and only as necessary to preserve plant life. Newly seeded lawns and plantings installed by a licensed contractor shall have a forty-five-day establishment period for the date of installation. Sodded lawns installed by a licensed contractor shall have a twenty-day establishment period and shall use no more than 1/2 inch of water over the sodded area daily. Recommend outside automatic irrigation systems be used during the establishment period, but only between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.
  • Irrigation of golf courses.
  • Use of water for the operation of ornamental foundations, artificial waterfalls, reflecting pools, misting machines, or other structures.
  • Irrigation of athletic fields except as necessary to preserve plant life.
  • Use of water to fill and top off outdoor swimming pools except that pools may be filled to a level of two feet below normal, or as necessary to protect the structure from hydrostatic damage, as to pools constructed or contracted for on or before the effective date of this article.
  • The service of drinking water in restaurants except upon request.
  • The use of water from fire hydrants for any purposes other than fire suppression unless otherwise specifically approved by the County.

The Page County Emergency Management has activated the Emergency Operations Center virtually to monitor the current situation, and facilitate the reporting of resource needs for the citizens of Page County.


To report water shortages for private residences, email or call 540-843-3491 and leave a message.

For educational resources about managing your farm/livestock during a drought, contact the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office in Page County at 540-778-5794 or email Elizabeth Baldwin.

For questions about water resources for livestock contact the Virginia Farm Service Agency in the Harrisonburg Office at 540-433-9126.



Page County saw 4th driest August in 55 years

DEQ issues drought warning for Page County

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

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