The Shenandoah River watershed is drought-prone. Recent drought disasters occurred in 1977, 1999, and 2002. Serious concerns were raised in 2014 when both Front Royal and Strasburg kicked in their water conservation plans due to low flow. Strasburg was also concerned in 2015. Research by Friends and others indicates that we are drawing down the water table in the Valley. As growth and development continue to increase the need for water in our region, conservation of our most precious resource will reach a critical state.
What can you do to conserve water?
Inside your home: Many of the older homes in our area have one or more cisterns to capture rain water, installed at a time when wells were the only source of domestic water. Cisterns can capture large amounts of water to help people, livestock, plants, and pets get through droughts and reduce the cost of buying water from a water and sewer authority. Other effective, simple household water conservation practices include low-flow shower heads and toilets, and water-saving dish and laundry washers. Even small actions can make a big difference on a year-round basis, like: turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, washing your face, and shaving; fully loading the dishwasher before running it; capturing the cool sink water from the hot water tap before the hot water arrives; using vegetable cooking water for plants (they like the extra nutrients); and replacing washers in dripping faucets.
Outdoors: Water lawns and gardens only when needed and early in the morning when evaporation is lowest; consider micro-drip irrigation and soaker hoses; add mulch to retain soil moisture; check with a nursery or garden supply to obtain native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Use rain barrels to capture water for your plants and animals, even for washing your car.
On the farm: Water conservation on farms is an essential element in overall farm management. “Best management practices” are extensively researched and disseminated via many organizations and networks. Among the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s numerous publications and outreach activities are “National Conservation Practices Standards” for topics such as irrigation, pond maintenance, and water harvesting and spreading. These are implemented through state Field Office Technical Guides. For Shenandoah County, this is provided through the Farm Service Agency.
Among the many sources of water conservation tips are:
•Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District – Urban and Residential Environmental Issues
•http://lfswcd.org/Urban%20&%20Residential2.htm 540-868-1130 ext. 3
•Shenandoah County Farm Service Agency 540-459-5734