- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

To recover from the drought, Virginia needs at least normal rainfall in the chilly months ahead. Then water will have a chance to seep into deep aquifers and back into reservoirs without being evaporated by heat or absorbed by plants.
The amount of rainfall this winter will be critical, researchers said.
"If we get another dry winter across most of the state, then by the time the growing season gets here next year, this year's drought will seem like a picnic," said Jerry Stenger, research coordinator at the Virginia State Climatology Office at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "Wish for a winter with good rainfall."
The bulk of recent rain fell in the Tidewater area around Hampton Roads and in the southern Piedmont region around Martinsville, Mr. Stenger said.
"But even in those areas that saw the heaviest rainfalls, the amount was not sufficient to turn the drought around," he said.
Many widespread rains, such as the remnants of tropical storms, he said, would quench the drought.
But forecasts don't offer encouragement.
For the next three months, the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls for near normal temperatures with somewhat below-normal rainfall.
Across the state, the drought has ruined crops and forced farmers to sell livestock. Dozens of cities and counties have been designated disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and dozens more are seeking the designation.
People's day-to-day routines have changed because of the drought.
Charlottesville reuses the water in public and private pools, while at the University of Virginia, school officials have asked football fans to use portable toilets instead of the flush kind.
Students at Longwood University in Farmville use disposable dishware at some meals to reduce the amount of water used washing dishes.
"We have taken a number of water-conservation measures," said university spokesman Dennis Sercombe.
Campus grounds are left unwatered, and school officials encourage students to take military style, soap-up-with-the-water-off showers. Bricks have been placed in toilet tanks to limit water waste.
Portsmouth residents seem to have taken the call for water conservation seriously, with usage down from almost 20 million gallons a day early this summer to just over 15 million gallons a day now.
Recent rainfall brought 2.13 inches to Portsmouth's reservoir at Lake Kilby.
"The rain was welcome, but it wasn't a drought-ender," said Portsmouth utilities director James R. Spacek. "I think that's hard for some people to realize after they have seen all that rain."
In nearby Virginia Beach, Clarence Warnstaff, director of public utilities, said the city may mount a public education campaign to teach residents how they can use less water.
"There is still considerable confusion," he said.
Recent rains have left some residents assuming that the worst is past, Mr. Warnstaff said, adding that unfortunately, the drought continues.
"Everybody is hoping we'll get back into a normal rainfall pattern, but actually we want more than normal," he said. "That's what it's really going to take."

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