Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors both officially declared a “drought warning” on August 16 and approved measures to restrict public water use. The declarations came a day after a recommendation from the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) upgrading the situation to the second of three stages of possible water-shortage severity. With total rainfall for 2007 6.78 inches below normal according to UVA’s Virginia Climatology Office, the RWSA had declared a “drought watch” on July 23.
Charlottesville Public Works Director Judith Mueller, who addressed Council at an emergency meeting, said this was the area’s worst drought since 2002. She noted that the area would have to receive “substantial rainfall” before the warning is lifted.
Basic restrictions for area residents include a ban on watering outside plants except with a watering can, washing vehicles except at commercial facilities and the serving of drinking water in restaurants except upon request. Restrictions are being imposed by Council and the Board of Supervisors earlier than they were in 2002 in order to better spread the word to incoming UVA students, according to Lauren Hildebrand, director of utilities for the local chapter of the American Public Works Association.
“This is a proactive rather than reactive measure,” said County Supervisor Kenneth Boyd. “We’re not in dire straits by any means.”