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Area residents asked to conserve water

Rich Cholodofsky
| Friday, March 15, 2002

GREENSBURG - Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County customers were urged Thursday to voluntarily conserve water as drought conditions move closer into western Pennsylvania.

Authority manager Chris Kerr said the more than 113,000 water customers should reduce water usage by at least 5 percent until further notice.

"We want the public to be aware that if we can get people to start conserving now it will be better in the long run," Kerr said.

Westmoreland County is not one of the 62 counties in Pennsylvania that is under some type of drought emergency, warning or watch. Three of the counties served by MAWC - Fayette, Armstrong and Indiana - are under a drought warning. The remaining service area in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties is under no drought watches.

Most of the serious drought conditions are in eastern Pennsylvania, Kerr said.

Counties that are listed in a drought emergency are subject to mandatory conservation as ordered by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Although there are no mandatory conservation orders locally, Kerr said MAWC customers should reduce water usage by as much as one gallon a day.

That reduction would equal the requested 5 percent level and equates to about one less load of laundry or one less dishwasher cycle a day, Kerr said.

Officials said the dry autumn and winter have left a deficit in one of the authority's water sources. The Beaver Run Reservoir in Bell Township is only at 51 percent capacity and down more than 10 feet from average levels this time of year.

But the Youghiogheny River, from which the MAWC also draws water, is actually above its historical levels, leaving the authority with enough water to service its customers, Kerr said.

Still, Westmoreland County has received 4 inches below average rainfall for this time of year, and that could prove troubling heading into the traditionally dry months of summer.

"I've never experienced a drought this time of year in my time with the authority. By the middle of March we're usually experiencing a lot of rainfall," Kerr said.

Authority officials are recommending customers check their homes for leaks, install flow restrictors on faucets, take shorter showers and flush toilets less as part of the conservation efforts.

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