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Upper Bucks groundwater committee offers help with understanding local drought conditions

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The Bridgeton-Nockamixon-Tinicum Groundwater Committee (BNT-GWC) has offered help with understanding local drought conditions.

The offer followed its Aug. 17 handout on the subject, distributed at the Aug. 18 Nockamixon Township public board of supervisors meeting, and a recent release from the state Dept. of Environmental Protection (PADEP).

“I emphasize that drought is a local phenomenon,” offered Dr. Arthur Baehr, a retired U.S. Geological Survey (USGS.) hydrologist, and a consultant to the BNT-GWC. “The average reader may get confused looking at the various drought monitors (that are produced on) a national or state scale.”

“For example, a national map could lead one to believe that serious drought in western states is a recent happening, (while) that drought condition is (actually) chronic. In another case, a map issued by PADEP in a recent news release broadly indicates drought watch conditions, but PADEP, in conjunction with USGS, also has a more detailed map, indicating more serious drought conditions that are particular to some counties, and taking into consideration precipitation, soil moisture, stream flow and well levels.”

To provide a locally targeted and comprehensive source for the communities it serves, Baehr notes that BNT-GWC maintains a drought monitor on their website, bntgroundwater.org/the-data/. It uses flow on the Tinicum Creek at Pipersville, and also reports water levels measured by BNT-GWC across Bridgeton, Nockamixon, and Tinicum townships.

In addition, BNT-GWC offers an article by Baehr on “predicting the effect of droughts on our wells,” /bntgroundwater.org/local-drought-monitor-report/.

Meanwhile, at a recent Tinicum Township public supervisors meeting, an official was reported to have stated that “the U.S. Drought Monitor has Tinicum at the abnormally dry level, rather than at a moderate, severe, extreme, or exceptional drought level, meaning a drought situation has not been declared.”

Asked to comment about that statement, Dr. Stephen Donovan, vice-chair of BNT-GWC, said that it derived from “the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), that is affiliated with USDA, NOAA, and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. While this is good and accurate information, it is not nuanced enough to adequately describe if we are in a drought or not locally,” which is what the group seeks to offer on its website.

In the Aug. 17 handout, Donovan said “we are happy to report well levels are normal for this time of year. We had a good winter with the aquifers recharging to above normal levels. This placed us in a good position for our currently dry conditions. If the dry conditions continue, this situation will change, and if we have a dry winter, when most of the aquifer recharge happens, we could be in trouble.”


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