Drought Stages


Every Drop Counts!

Stage 1

Drought Watch

During a Drought Watch, the ACSA requests that each customer initate voluntary water restrictions. We also encourage that watering of outside shubbery, trees, lawns, grass, plants, home vegetable gardens, or any other vegetation be conducted only between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m., and only as necessary to preserve plant life.

Stage 2

Drought Warning

The washing of automobiles, trucks, trailers or any other type of mobile equipment shall only be performed in a licensed certified vehicle wash facility. Currently the only four car washes in that are certified are Clean Machine at 101 Riverbend Drive (Pantops), Car Lovers at 1099 E. Rio Road (Rio Road), Speedy Wash at 2235 Seminole Lane (Route 29 North) and Jiffy Car Wash at 2088 Berkmar Drive. (Seminole Trail)
Letter to all Car Dealerships

The washing of sidewalks, streets, driveways, parking lots, service station aprons, or other washing of exterior buildings shall be prohibited, except when performed by a licensed commerical power-washing company with written approval by the ACSA.

The watering of outside established trees, plants, shrubs, and home gardens shall only be conducted manually, using a non-leaking hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle, and only as necessary to preserve plant life. The use of outside, automatic irrigation systems, including in-ground systems, hoses, and oscillating sprinklers, shall be prohibited for all established lawns, trees, plants, shrubs, and home gardens. This limitation does not apply to athletic fields and courts which may be watered only between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m., and only as necessary to preserve plant life.

Newly seeded lawns and plantings shall be installed by a licensed contractor and shall have a 45-day establishment period from the date of installation. Sodded lawns shall be installed by a contractor, shall have a 20-day establishment period and shall use no more than 1/2 inch of water over the sodded area daily. Irrigation of newly installed plantings, and seeded and sodded lawns shall be conducted only between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. Prior to installing the new plantings and lawns by a licensed contractor, the customer shall provide the ACSA with documentation.

Letter to all Irrigation and Auxiliary Meter Customers
Letter to all Irrigation and Exclusion Meter Customers
Letter to all Landscapers

Testing and servicing of outside, automatic irrigation systems may be completed during a Drought Warning, only if the contract to install the system is dated prior to the declaration of the Drought Watch, and a copy is provided to the ACSA.
Letter to all Irrigation Contractors

The operation of any ornamental fountain or other structure with a similiar use of water is prohibited.

The filling and topping of swimming or wading pools requiring more than five (5) gallons of water, shall require written approval from the ACSA. Approval shall only be considered for those swimming or wading pools contracted to be installed prior to the declaration of the Drought Watch. A copy of the contract shall be provided to the ACSA.

The serving of drinking water in restaurants shall be prohibited, except upon request. Signage can also be printed off here.
Letter to all Restaurants

The use of water from fire hydrants for any purposes other than fire suppression shall be prohibited, unless otherwise specifically approved by the Executive Director.

The operation of any water-cooled comfort air-conditioning, which does not have water-conserving equipment in operation.

All commercial lodging establishments shall adopt a policy which limits the daily changing of washable linens and towels, and communicate that policy to their employees and guests. Signage can also be printed off here.
Letter to all commercial lodging establishments

The use of water through an exclusion meter shall be prohibited.
Letter to all exclusion meter customers.

Stage 3

Drought Emergency

All water leaks on customers' piping shall be repaired within three (3) business days after notification by the ACSA.

All outdoor watering is prohibited.

All businesses, institutions and governmental entities shall develop and implement a written plan that will reduce the business's or entity's current use of water by twenty percent (20%). Usage shall be based on the customer's average monthly use for the twelve (12) month period prior to declaration of the Drought Emergency Stage. The Executive Director shall establish a monthly usage benchmark for all businesses without a twelve (12) month billing history. This plan shall be submitted to the ACSA within fourteen (14) calendar days of notification of the Drought Emergency Stage.

All businesses, institutions and governmental entities shall prominently display, at their entrance and in each restroom and shower, signs indicating the current water emergency. We have this building signage and this bathroom signage that can be printed off and displayed.

Emergency water rates designed to drive down water use shall be enacted.

All exemptions previously granted under the Drought Warning Stage restrictions are cancelled. Customers previously granted exemptions may reapply for an exemption. In order to preserve water supply availability for all customers, Drought Warning Stage and Drought Emergency Stage restrictions apply to all of our customers.

Exemption Considerations:

To request an exemption or for more clarification, contact us at board@serviceauthority.org.


Frequently Asked Questions

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) plans to continue the mandatory water restrictions and reduction of the minimum instream release until high water levels have been sustained in the reservoir for an extended period. Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) indicates the forecast is for an abnormally dry winter.

All the area reservoirs were full in early August. August was a month with little rain, and over August and September all the urban reservoirs began dropping as irrigation use continued and UVa students returned. Stream flows in the region’s rivers (which fill the reservoirs) are at very low levels currently. The reservoir of most concern today, the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, is the second largest reservoir and is the water that serves our largest water treatment plant.

This reservoir was full on August 3 and overflowing the dam. A combination of hot weather, high water use, and very little rain have all combined to reduce the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. It also has a legally-required daily release into the Rivanna River that has compounded the problem. The South Fork Rivanna Reservoir dropped two feet, or 15% of total capacity, during the last week of September. Between September 15-October 2, the reservoir lost 32% of capacity.

Ragged Mountain is our largest reservoir and is presently over ¾ full, and continues to serve the role it was intended to play in the water supply plan. It supplies water to the Observatory Water Treatment Plant. The Observatory Plant is not able to serve the entire Urban Water System alone, and was designed to supplement the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and Water Treatment Plant. Under normal operations the Urban System (ACSA and City of Charlottesville) is supplied by 80% production from South Fork and 20% production from Observatory. That has been recently shifted as we got into the drought to closer to 50-50%.

The month of September typically has a major storm which brings significant rain to the Albemarle area and fills the reservoirs. In fact, three hurricanes did not bring any rain last month. About mid-September the South Fork Reservoir began a faster decline and in the last week of the month alone dropped 15%. It was at that point the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) declared a Drought Watch (voluntary conservation). During that week, the reservoir level continued to drop to less than half full (41%), leading the RWSA to declare a Drought Warning (mandatory restrictions).

Watering for established areas is permissible by hand, either with a watering can or by a non-leaking hose with an automatic (hand-held) shut off nozzle. Sprinklers and irrigation systems cannot be used. Exception is provided by the ACSA for newly seeded lawns and plantings following written request, so please call the ACSA offices at 977-4511 for additional information.

Yes, customer reduction of water use can truly make a difference. There are two reasons for the Drought Warning and mandatory restrictions:
The first is that outdoor watering in the ACSA system can be as high as 18% of the use in summer months, and we have not had a relief from that this fall.
Equally important is that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VaDEQ) required mandatory restrictions be in place to allow for reduced release of water into the South Fork Rivanna River below the dam.

As of October 12th, we are in Mandatory Restrictions, essentially No Outdoor Watering.
We consider this to be an emergency, and to have the major water supply at 41% capacity is a serious concern. Through conservation, the operational changes mentioned above, and the approval by DEQ of a lesser stream release to the Rivanna River, we are hopeful to stabilize the reservoir level and slowly build it back up. The good news is that the capacity has not dropped for six days. Larger rainfall, and likely several large sustained rains, will be required to bring the reservoir back to full. That is typically what happens between now and spring.

The Charlottesville-Albemarle area has been dry this summer, at least 6” to 7” less rainfall than the average year to date. It will take a series of significant wet weather events over the fall or possibly into the winter to fill the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. That process of filling, could take weeks or months to fill the reservoir. The Specific Drought Watch restrictions in detail and water conservation tips, are found on this page of our website.

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority maintains our water supply. They publish the daily reservoir levels at http://www.rivanna.org/current-reservoir-levels

You can find which reservoir serves your property at www.serviceauthority.org/watersupply.html

More information regarding Emergency Water Restrictions can be found in Section 16 of our Rules and Regulations.

Drought Document Archives