With projected dry conditions this spring and summer for the Lebanon Valley, it’s never too early to take steps to conserve our most precious natural resource.

Read More: Drier days ahead for the Lebanon Valley

For now, water levels for the City of Lebanon Authority, which provides water to 20,000 customers in central Lebanon County, from Lickdale to Cornwall and Cleona to East Lebanon at Narrows Drive, are at normal levels, according to Jon Beers, Executive Director, City of Lebanon Authority. The authority has two water sources, the Siegrist Dam in Pine Grove Township, Schuylkill County, and the Swatara Creek Intake in Jonestown.

“We average 45 to 50 inches of rain annually, as measured at our treatment plant, ” Beers said. “We had 48 inches in 2020, so it was an average year. It seems a little dry now, but we certainly are nowhere near a drought for water supply. We are seeing typical flow levels at the dam and intake for this time of year.”

The summer months, as expected, are when the authority typically loses the overflow at the Dam, especially during June or July.

“The water level will drop about 5 to 15 feet below the spillway elevation, and then recover in the fall or early winter when we have some tropical storms or hurricane remnants hit our area,” added Beers.

Water levels for Pennsylvania American Water (PAW), which has approximately 20,138 customers in Hershey, Palmyra, Hummelstown, and some parts of Lebanon County, are also average for its supply, which is fed by the Swatara and Manada creeks. The Swatara Creek is currently at about 2.67 feet and the company does not have data for Manada Creek, according to Maggie Sheely, External Affairs Manager at PAW.

The Swatara Intake facilities, the other surface water source for central Lebanon County. (City of Lebanon Authority)

The fact that both systems are at adequate levels heading into what is expected to be a drier than normal spring is good news for those professions that rely on water, especially farmers, and for consumers.

Beers noted that customers in the authority’s system consume about 130 gallons of water per day, which is down from years ago, and added that lower consumption “is a very good thing.” He noted there are several reasons why this trend has happened.

“People are renovating older homes and putting in new toilets that use less water per flush, or showers and sinks that have water-restricting faucets,” Beers wrote in an email to LebTown. “All new clothes washing machines and dishwashers are water and energy saving. Schools and other large use facilities are doing the same thing. Some toilets even use NO water…”

Read More: A trek into the wilderness of the Lebanon Reservoir and Jeff’s Swamp

Water conservation is a practice that never goes out of season, and is especially important when the area experiences dry conditions during those months that typically generate most of the moisture that charges our water systems and aquifers.

“Fall and winter tend to be our dry months,” says Channel 27 meteorologist Dan Tomaso. “Air in the fall from the north is dry, very very dry. However, in spring and summer, as the humidity starts to rise, that’s what brings us much of our moisture and makes spring and summer the wet season in our part of the world.”

As a service to LebTown readers, Sheely shared the following water-conservation pointers:

Outside your home

Lawn watering uses a lot of water. Water your lawn only when it needs it. An easy way to tell if your lawn needs water is to simply walk across the grass. If you leave footprints, your lawn may be thirsty! Generally, lawns only need an inch or so of water per week during the summer months. Water your lawn wisely by:

  • Making the most of your watering by watering in the early morning. As much as 30 percent of water can be lost to evaporation by watering during midday.
  • Planning for fewer, deep-soaking waterings to encourage deep root growth and stronger turf.
  • Set your lawn mower one notch higher to make your lawn more drought-tolerant.
  • Use drip irrigation hoses to water plants, and water in the early morning or evening.
  • Consider using porous pavement (gravel is a good example) instead of asphalt for driveways and walkways, the rain will soak into the soil instead of running off and contributing to erosion.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your sidewalk, driveway, or patio.
  • Plant appropriately for your local climate. Check with local nurseries for non-invasive, drought-tolerant plants.

Inside your home

A simple way to detect a leaking toilet: put several drops of food coloring in the upper tank and wait for a half hour without flushing. If the water in the bowl appears dyed, you’ve got a leaky toilet. (Borough of Patton)
  • Run dishwashers and clothes washers only when they are full. If you have a water-saver cycle, use it.
  • Adjust the water level of your clothes washer so it matches your load size.
  • Regularly check your toilet, faucets, and pipes for leaks with our free leak detection kits. If you find a leak, have it fixed as soon as possible.
  • Check your water meter before and after a one-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter changes at all, you probably have a leak.
  • Consider water and energy-efficient appliances. Products and services that have earned the WaterSense label have been certified to be at least 20 percent more efficient without sacrificing performance. The USEPA reports that EPA-certified Energy Star washing machines may use 35% less water per load. Water-saving showerheads, toilets and faucet aerators can also help cut your water usage.
  • Insulate exposed water pipes with pre-slit foam insulation. You’ll enjoy hot water faster and avoid wasting water while it heats up.
  • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or washing dishes in the sink.
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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...