(WETM) — Chemung, Steuben, Schuyler, and Tompkins counties have been placed under a drought watch today by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Governor Kathy Hochul directed the NYS DEC to issue a drought watch for 21 New York counties today, July 29, 2022. According to the DEC, a drought watch is the first of four levels of State drought advisories. The advisories are listed as “watch, warning, emergency, and disaster.”

The NYS DEC is encouraging residents in affected counties to conserve water whenever possible during the coming weeks. The DEC says that there are no mandatory restrictions in place for counties under a drought watch.

Photo Courtesy: NYS DEC

Drought watches are triggered by the State Drought Index, which reflects precipitation levels, reservoir/lake levels, groundwater levels, and stream flow in nine regions throughout New York.

“Recent rains across the state were not enough to address the dry conditions that have persisted this year,” Governor Hochul said. “Local water restrictions and educating residents about how to help conserve our water resources will be crucial steps to help prevent a more severe shortage should conditions worsen.”

The DEC says that water supply challenges have been reported due to several factors, including dry conditions, below normal precipitation during the last three months, low streamflows, and low groundwater levels.

The National Weather Service forecast for the rest of the summer predicts above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation. The DEC recommends voluntarily reducing water usage and being extra careful with fire and outdoor flames.

Recommendations by the DEC for conserving water usage include:

  • Water your lawns only when necessary and water in the early morning to reduce evaporation and maximize soil hydration.
  • Reuse water collected in rain barrels, dehumidifiers and air conditioners to water plants
  • Raise lawn mower cutting heights, as longer grass is healthier with stronger roots and needs less water
  • Fix leaky pipes, hoses and faucets
  • using a broom and not a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks,