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Recent rainfall helps with drought, but water-use restrictions continue

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By Johnathan Ryan

Late December rainfall has likely delayed Stage 4 drought restrictions a bit longer, officials say.

While he expects an official update from Duke Energy on Catawba River and lake water levels early next week, Lancaster County Water and Sewer District Manager Mark Knight said his hunch is that recent rain has brought another delay to Stage 4 restrictions, which would require at least a 30 percent reduction in water use from all customers.

"Obviously, it helped (the rainfall). It has probably delayed it for a few weeks," he said, noting Stage 4 restrictions won't come before the middle of February now.

Between Dec. 29 and Dec. 30, the city of Lancaster received about 1.7 inches of rain, according to measurements at the city's wastewater treatment plant.

Rainfall amounts have been normal of late, said plant director Mack McDonald said.

"A wet January and February and we can probably put off Stage 4 indefinitely," he said.

Knight has said that at least normal rain for an extended period would further delay or eliminate Stage 4 restrictions altogether. Recent cold temperatures are helping, because cold weather decreases evaporation rates, leaving more water in the ground.

As always, Knight reminds customers that Lancaster County is still in Stage 3 restrictions, even after encouraging signs from Mother Nature.

"Levels are not where they need to be to go back to Stage 2," he said.

In 2007, Lancaster County saw an 18-inch rainfall deficit compared to its yearly average, Knight said.

Contact Johnathan Ryan at 416-8416 or jryan@thelancasternews.com