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Va Rivers Record Lows*

Aug 20, 2002

Virginia Rivers Dip to Record Lows

Held in the hard grasp of drought, Virginia rivers are setting records for low flows.

Stream gages on the James, Rappahannock, York, Shenandoah and Chowan river basins are showing unprecedented minimum flows now, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"While conditions statewide are not as bad as during the drought of 1930-32," said USGS hydrologist Don Hayes, "more people using more water means increased demands on available supplies."

Three years of lower-than-normal rainfall has reduced the waterflow - which many public utilities, industries and farms depend on - in most Virginia river basins, the Geological Survey said.

Rivers will probably continue to dry up for another 30-45 days, Hayes said, until cooler temperatures reduce evaporation and trees start taking up less water from the ground.

The worst conditions are in the basins of central and eastern Virginia's smaller tributary streams.

For instance, in the parts of the Rappahannock and York watersheds located in the state's coastal plain, many watercourses have gone dry, Hayes said.

"That's not all that unusual," he said, "but that doesn't happen every year" either.

Tributaries in the James and Chowan river basins are well below previous minimums, he said.

Hayes singled out the Appomattox River at Farmville, which is flowing at just 0.2 cubic feet a second. One cubic foot of water equals about 7.5 gallons.

The old minimum daily average flow, set in 1941, was 6.3 cubic feet per second, or more than 30 times greater than the current rate.

The Roanoke River watershed is one of the hardest hit in the state, but recent thunderstorms boosted streamflows.

"They'll be back down real quick if they don't get some precipitation," Hayes said.

This story can be found at: E:\Timesdispatch.com/news/localupdates/MGBYEVAB45D.html

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