- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

RICHMOND Groundwater levels are improving across Virginia because of steady precipitation this winter, but experts say it may take several weeks before they know whether the drought is nearing an end.
Although winter storms have dropped enough snow and ice in recent weeks to make residents long for spring, hydrologists said it has not been an abnormally wet year for the state so far.
Precipitation totals have been well above average in only Northern Virginia, which is almost 2 inches higher than normal. The Richmond area is a tenth of an inch above normal, and the Roanoke area is about a half-inch above normal.
This means that long-term groundwater deficits, which have built up over several years of unusually dry and warm winters, may linger until there are several more months of normal rains.
"Even though it seems like we're getting a lot of rain, we're really at near normal, just a little above normal conditions," said Tony Siebers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield. "From a hydrological point of view, it takes a long time to recharge groundwater levels."
This isn't to say the situation has not improved. Don Hayes, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Richmond, said stream and reservoir levels are back to normal, as are moisture levels in topsoil a good agricultural indicator the drought is ending.
Terry Wagner, chairman of the state's drought-monitoring task force, said big gains in the fall also have to be taken into account.
He said the state's precipitation levels have been 40 percent above normal since October. The period from October to April is the prime time to recharge groundwater, because it is not a growing period for plants and temperatures are lower.

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