Conserve water, county is asked

Prince William County residents are encouraged to join the regional effort to conserve water by limiting showers, waiting for a full load before using dishwashers and washing machines and turning off the tap when brushing their teeth.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments this week issued a drought watch asking residents and businesses to help reduce the demand on the regional water supply.

While Prince William has not issued any official restrictions, several nearby jurisdictions have done so. Mandatory water restrictions were issued last month in Stafford County, as well as voluntary restrictions in the City of Manassas. Loudoun County also enacted mandatory water restrictions on Tuesday.

“We are joining with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments in asking our customers to be wise in their water use,” said Keenan Howell, spokesman for the Prince William Service Authority.

The dry conditions that persist throughout the region prompted the regional council’s Drought Coordination Committee to enact the watch, which is at the second level of its four-stage regional drought response plan.

Regional officials emphasized that while there currently is an adequate supply of water in the Potomac River and back-up reservoirs, several smaller systems are experiencing more significant problems.

Implementing voluntary water conservation across the region at this time, they believe, will help complement the stricter restrictions already in place in the smaller systems and help ensure that water supplies will remain adequate.

The Prince William Service Authority buys most of its drinking water from the Fairfax County Water Authority, which in turn draws its water from the Occoquan and Potomac rivers.

With water levels in the Occoquan River 55 percent lower than normal, Fairfax is drawing more of its water from the Potomac and less from the Occoquan, Jeanne Bailey, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Water Authority, said earlier this week.

“Even though in the fall the demand for water typically declines, we want to emphasize and encourage the public to continue to practice outdoor and indoor water conservation measures,” said Tony Griffin, Drought Coordination Committee chairman and Fairfax County executive. “Limiting the watering of lawns, plants and shrubs, using a broom instead of a hose to clean sidewalks and driveways, repairing leaking toilets and faucets are all simple ways to save water. We urge everyone to follow these common-sense guidelines.”

Regional council officials said they do not anticipate reaching warning or emergency stages of their plan for those who get their water from the Potomac River system.

The flow in the Potomac River, while low, remains at a level about twice that of current water supply demands. Water supply reservoirs constructed in the early 1980s to provide water during droughts are currently full and unlikely to be needed, according to the regional council.

While water supply reservoirs in the regional Potomac system, the Occoquan, Rocky Gorge and Triadelphia are within planned operating levels, voluntary conservation will help keep them there. Other water supply reservoirs such as Lake Manassas and Beaverdam are below their normal planned operating levels, according to the regional council.

The dry conditions being experienced in the Potomac River Basin are part of a larger area of drought affecting the United States mid-Atlantic region. Precipitation in the Washington area over the past month is 50 to 75 percent below normal and has dropped more than 5 inches below normal in the past 90 days, according to the regional council.

A detailed list of wise water tips can be found at