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   What Caused the 1999 Drought?

The summer and fall of 1998 were extremely dry, setting the stage for a drought in 1999. In most years, highest stream flows occur during winter, decreasing through spring and summer, with lowest stream flows in early fall. It is critical to have a precipitation surplus in winter to have water reserves if the summer is especially dry. Precipitation was well below normal much of the late winter and spring in 1999, resulting in a worsening of the drought.
 Is Relief In Sight?

The jet stream lifts north of the area during the summer, taking rain-producing weather systems with it. Until these systems return in the fall, it is unlikely there will be any significant amount of rain. Droughts can be broken during the summer months only by a tropical storm.

*Not all areas represented. Some areas, such as many in Southern Maryland and Anne Arundel, rely heavily on wells. Other small drinking-water providers, including Frederick County and Leesburg, also withdraw water from the Potomac.

SOURCES: Fairfax County Water Authority; Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin; National Drought Mitigation Center; Maryland Department of the Environment; Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; National Weather Service; Santa Barbara Water; United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service; United States Geological Survey; Washington Aqueduct District; Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

BY WILLIAM MCNULTY, BRENNA SINK, DAMIKO G. MORROS AND LAURA STANTON -- THE WASHINGTON POST


© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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