Drought watch declared in 15 W.Pa. counties

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The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a drought watch Thursday for 15 counties in Western Pennsylvania.

They are Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Greene, Lawrence, Mercer, Somerset, Venango, Warren and Washington countries.

The state has three drought classifications, and a watch is the first and least severe.

The declaration calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction in nonessential water use. Large water consumers should plan for a potential reduction in water availability, according to a news release from the department.

"A hot, dry summer made it necessary to take this first step of declaring a drought watch in the affected counties," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said in the release. "This measure will alert the public and water suppliers that there are voluntary, common-sense ways to conserve."

The department also suggests water suppliers monitor their quantities and update drought contingency plans as necessary.

To conserve water, residents can install low-flow plumbing fixtures; check for leaks; take short showers; replace old appliances; run dishwashers and washing machines with full loads; and store water in the refrigerator to avoid waiting for cold water from the faucet.

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