Henderson and Oxford have joined a growing list of municipalities responding to drought conditions at Kerr Lake.
Water levels have declined by a foot since the beginning of last week, according to lake officials. The level is at an 80-year low.
The level was at 292.35 feet Tuesday night when the Oxford board of commissioners adopted a voluntary water conservation measure for the city. Henderson’s city council adopted a similar measure one night earlier.
Christy Lipscomb, the director of the Kerr Lake regional water facility, said that Warren and Franklin counties are expected to be soon following suit on the conservation measure that urges cutbacks on uses.
The current conditions could worsen as the beginning of a winter and springtime shortage looms on forecasts saying precipitation upstream from the lake is not expected to be particularly plentiful, according to Lipscomb.
“We are anticipating a mild to moderate rainfall, which is not encouraging,” Lipscomb said.
On Monday, Henderson City Manager Ray Griffin said he has been fielding some questions about the lowering lake level that local rain doesn’t seem to be alleviating.
“Many people are saying, it’s been raining like mad, why is the lake so low,” Griffin said. “Well it turns out that the fullness of the lake depends on widespread rainfall across the entire Roanoke River Basin into Virginia.”
Lipscomb agreed, adding that she hopes for voluntary thrift on water use together with moderate rains to bring some balance to the situation.
“It is kind of like a trickle-down effect,” she said. “Rain here is all well and good, but in order for it to have an effect, there needs to be good rain in the Roanoke and Smith Mountain Lake areas in Virginia.”
Oxford commissioners adopted a resolution calling for the voluntary water conservation on the heels of a declaration by the Army Corps of Engineers on the drought conditions.
Commissioner Ron Bullock, the board’s liaison with the Kerr Lake Regional Water Authority, said when the level drops below 294 feet, customers can be asked to implement voluntary conservation measures.
If the 289-foot level is reached, mandatory conservation may be imposed in Oxford, Henderson and the counties that are on the system.
Five feet lower, at 285, and a water shortage emergency would be declared, and if the lowering reaches down to the 280-foot level, water rationing measures would go into effect.
The water intake level is at 275 feet. In 2002, before the intake was put down to the 275-foot level, a drought reached a point that pumps had to be placed on the shoreline and used to siphon water upward to the intake, Lipscomb said.
• Use dishwashers only when full, and if washing dishes by hand, cut back on running water.
• Refrain from using a garbage disposal.
• Adjust water use for laundry loads in a washing machine, or make sure to run full loads only.
• Using non-phosphate detergents for laundry can enable that water to be channeled for use on lawns and plants.
• Keep faucets off during teeth brushings.
• Take shorter showers and shallow baths.
• Use sink and tub stoppers to avoid water waste.
• Install toilet tank inserts to cut down on water use when flushing.
• Don’t use the toilet as a trash can.
• Reduce the number of toilet flushes.
• Keep chilled water bottled in the refrigerator for drinking (instead of running water to cool it)
• Find and fix pipe and appliance leaks. Replace washers.
• Monitor water meters for usage.
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