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Drought warning versus severe drought: what does this mean for you?

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Posted at 10:24 AM, Aug 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-04 10:24:38-04

John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival once sang those famous lyrics, "I want to know, have you ever seen the rain."

That couldn't be more true for much of Western New York this past spring and summer, especially for folks living in Niagara and Orleans County. Brown lawns and wells running dry  is something we're not used to experiencing. 

So with the Department of Environmental Conservation of New York issuing a drought warning and the U.S. Drought Monitor placing a majority of Western New York in a Severe Drought, it's ok to feel confused as to what means what, and who is supplying the information. So, here is the big question we hope to answer in this article: what does this mean for you?

Drought Warning versus Severe Drought? What's the difference?

The Department of Environment Conservation of New York is an agency created to combine all state programs whose purpose is to protect and enhance the environment into one. Just this Wednesday, the DEC issued a drought warning Wednesday for all of Western New York.

There are four levels of state drought advisories: advisory, warning, emergency, disaster.  In a warning, New York asks you to voluntarily conserve water, such as sweeping the sidewalks and driveways instead of using a hose and fixing leaky faucets.

In other words, you can still water your lawns and gardens just like you would normally do so. That is, if the town or village you live in doesn't currently have mandatory water restrictions. As of now, there are no statewide restrictions on water usage.

The U.S. Drought Monitor works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and issue drought maps based off soil moisture measurements and observations from across the U.S. every Thursday. Most of Western New York is currently in a severe drought. In a severe drought, crop losses are likely and water restrictions may be imposed. For more information about the U.S. Drought Monitor and they determine who is in a drought, click here

The next step above a severe drought is extreme drought. Fortunately, we are not at that point. However, there's not a lot of beneficial rainfall in the forecast over the next week.