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Drought contingency plan in place for some Pittsburgh-area water customers

Drought contingency plan in place for some Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County customers
Drought contingency plan in place for some Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County customers 02:19

NEW STANTON, Pa. (KDKA) -- A drought contingency plan is in place for some water customers throughout Westmoreland County.  

The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County said Wednesday that due to a lack of rain, the Beaver Run Reservoir reached levels where a voluntary conservation order was necessary in hopes of conserving water. 

"We are currently down a little more than 2.1 billion gallons when you consider the seasonal average. So precipitation is the easiest and best way out of this but conservation, every drop helps," said Matt Junker, a spokesperson for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.  

Junker said this is the first time in nearly a decade that the authority has had to issue a voluntary conservation order. The order affects customers in Westmoreland and parts of Armstrong, Indiana and Allegheny counties. 

"The lack of precipitation over the last couple of months has caused some of our rivers and streams to run 25% to 50% below their normal average," said Fred McMullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh. 

Junker said the reservoir is currently holding around 5 billion gallons of water. When full, it typically holds 11 billion gallons. 

"Every drop counts if people can conserve," Junker said. 

To avoid a mandatory order, Junker said customers should take shorter showers and turn off the water when brushing their teeth. 

"Then if you want to invest in water-saving appliances, you can do that. Look for WaterSense-labeled toilets, showerheads, and other fixtures," Junker said. 

According to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh, southwestern Pennsylvania is not in a drought, but McMullen said the region is about 3 inches below average for precipitation.  

"For the entire year, southwestern Pennsylvania, specifically at Pittsburgh International Airport, is just under 7 inches below normal for rainfall," McMullen said. "It's an El Niño winter so the storm track typically goes to our southeast across Virginia, not to the coast, but if those systems track it further inland, we can see some beneficial rains to our region as we go through the course of the winter months."   

To see if you are in the affected area, click here to launch an interactive map, and enter your address. 

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