27 Pennsylvania Counties Remain in Drought Watch
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is maintaining a drought watch for 27 counties across Pennsylvania because parts of the state have below-average levels of groundwater and, in some areas, surface water.
“We are still recovering from a very dry fall and below-normal precipitation this winter,” Acting DEP Secretary John Quigley said. “These factors have contributed to low groundwater and surface water levels mostly in the northeast and central portions of the state.”
The 27 counties under the drought watch are Berks, Bradford, Cambria, Carbon, Clinton, Columbia, Indiana, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Monroe, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne, Westmoreland, and Wyoming.
The lack of groundwater recharge can cause well-fed water supplies, both private and public, to go dry. All Pennsylvanians are advised to heed this drought watch by conserving their water use and consumption.
To reduce water use, residents can:
- Run water only when absolutely necessary. Avoid running water while brushing teeth or turning on the shower many minutes before use.
- Check for household leaks. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day.
- Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads.
- Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways, steps, and sidewalks.
- Wash the car with water from a bucket. If using a hose, control the flow with an automatic shutoff nozzle.
- Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden only, not the street or sidewalk.
- Use soaker hoses and trickle irrigation systems to reduce the amount of water used by 20 to 50 percent.
- Mulch around shrubs and garden plants to reduce evaporation from the soil and inhibit weeds.
- Plant native plants that require less care and water than ornamental varieties.
- Cover swimming pools to prevent evaporation.
- Adjust the lawn mower to a higher setting to provide natural ground shade and to promote water retention by the soil.
DEP has notified all water suppliers in the affected areas of the need to monitor their supplies, particularly those that rely upon groundwater, and update their drought contingency plans as necessary.
A drought watch declaration is the first and least-severe level of the state’s three drought classifications. It calls for a voluntary five percent reduction in non-essential water use.
Through a cooperative program with the U.S. Geological Survey, DEP helps fund a statewide network of gauges to monitor groundwater levels and stream flows. This network provides the state’s drought coordinator with comprehensive data that is used to determine drought classifications. In addition to precipitation, groundwater and stream flow levels, DEP monitors soil moisture and water supply storage. This data is shared with other state and federal agencies.
DEP also offers water conservation recommendations and water audit procedures for commercial and industrial users, such as food processors, hotels and educational institutions.
These recommendations and additional drought information are available by clicking here.
Townships Applaud Sen. Casey for Local Bridge Funding Support
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has proposed legislation in Congress to lift restrictions on federal funding for locally owned bridges. The last time Congress passed highway funding authorization was in 2012, at which time all highway and bridge funding shifted to the National Highway Performance Program, which doesn't cover off-system bridges.
On May 19, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a proposal to extend federal funding authorization through July to allow extra weeks to plan for a long-term bill before the Highway Trust Fund becomes insolvent.
Pennsylvania has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the nation, with 5,543 out of 22,667 bridges. On average, Pa.’s bridges are about 50 years old, but it’s not uncommon for motorists to travel across spans that have been around for a century or more. Many of these bridges need significant maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. Age, Mother Nature, neglect, and lack of money have contributed to their deterioration.
David M. Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, issued the following statement in praise of Sen. Casey's support for local bridge funding:
“Many of these local bridges in Pennsylvania are critical connectors in the overall transportation system, but without adequate funding, local governments are hard-pressed to come up with the money to repair or replace them. At jeopardy is the day-to-day travel of local residents, buses taking children to and from school, and essential delivery and emergency vehicles.
“It is critical that all of the commonwealth’s transportation network partners – the state, counties, and townships – have the proper funding to maintain and restore the state’s network of bridges so they are safe and structurally sound.
“Sen. Casey has recognized this need and is committed to providing the necessary resources to create a safe and reliable transportation system for our communities, our businesses, and our children.
“This legislation would help our member townships do their part in making sure Pennsylvanians remain safe and economically competitive. We urge Congress to pass Sen. Casey’s legislation to bring badly needed funding to Pennsylvania’s – and the rest of the nation’s – local bridge system.”
PSATS represents the 1,454 townships of the second class across Pennsylvania. Townships, in turn, represent more residents — 5.5 million Pennsylvanians — than any other type of political subdivision in the commonwealth and cover 95 percent of the commonwealth’s land mass.
Attend Training for Dirt and Gravel, Low-Volume Roads
Townships that maintain dirt and gravel/low-volume roads should consider participating in upcoming training through the Penn State Center for Dirt and Gravel Road Studies.
The Center's Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance (ESM) Course is an intense two-day classroom session focused on providing the knowledge and tools to maintain roads in a more cost-efficient and environmentally sensitive manner. The course runs form 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day and includes lunch. It's available at no cost to townships involved in Pennsylvania’s Dirt, Gravel, and Low-Volume Road Program.
To be eligible to apply for dirt and gravel or low-volume road grants, the township official in charge of work plan development and project implementation must have completed the required environmentally sensitive maintenance training within the past five years.
ESM training sessions will be held on the following dates:
- May 26-27 — Luzerne County
- June 2-3 — Warren County
- June 16-17 — Lycoming County
Click here to register and for more information. Pre-registration is required and must be done online.
Dave Sanko Discusses Current Township Topics on 'Behind the Headlines'
In the latest edition of Behind the Headlines, a production of the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy, PSATS Executive Director David Sanko gives a recap of the PSATS conference and the interaction it promotes between township and state officials.
He also discusses townships' concern about Gov. Wolf's proposed move from a natural gas drilling impact fee to a severance tax, municipal pensions, and the declining number of volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania — a crisis in the making, considering that a switch to paid firefighters would cost the commonwealth an estimated $6 billion.
Three PA Townships Named in Top 25 Safest Communities in America
SafeWise, a home security resource company, recently ranked the 100 safest communities in America with a population of 10,000 or more. (We’ll forgive them for calling their report the “100 Safest Cities in America.”)
Seventeen Pennsylvania communities made the list, including three townships of the second class in the top 25! Here’s a congratulatory shout out to Upper Providence Township in Delaware County (No. 2), South Park Township in Allegheny County (No. 5), and Lower Salford Township in Montgomery County (No. 24).
Other commonwealth communities in the top 25 were Whitehall in Lehigh County (No. 19) and Franklin Park in Westmoreland County (No. 21). Two more townships of the second class, Peters in Washington County and Willistown in Chester County, were ranked at No. 61 and No. 99 respectively.
You can view the entire list, with a description of each community, at www.safewise.com/safest-cities-america.
Congratulations to these and all other PA communities that made the list. Keep up the great work!
Note: SafeWise states that it calculates its safety rankings by analyzing and weighting the total number of crimes in a community in relation to its population and other factors. It then identifies relevant safety, health, and educational information and programs that help make each more secure.
Enter Sustainable Snowfighting Contest by June 1
Townships that responsibly store and use salt to de-ice their roads are encouraged to enter the Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting Award contest sponsored by the Salt Institute.
The award is presented to government agencies that have demonstrated best practices in sustainable salt storage and snowfighting. Entries must be received by June 1.
The contest encourages the construction of sound salt storage facilities, as well as practices that minimize environmental hazards and promote worker safety and snowfighting techniques.
Winning entrants will receive a certificate and be recognized in a Salt Institute news release.