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Catawba County residents enjoyed warm, clear weather for the previous week, but that good weather could come at a cost.
On Thursday, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources listed Catawba County as one of 27 North Carolina counties under moderate drought conditions, and continued warm, dry weather could only worsen those conditions.
The National Weather Service forecasts no rain and partially sunny conditions for Newton and the surrounding area during the next seven days. High temperatures are expected to remain in the upper 60s and low 70s.
The NWS website reports that Hickory received 1.17 inches of precipitation this month. That is down almost an inch from normal precipitation amounts in February.
According to the North Carolina Drought Advisory Council, Catawba County's moderate drought means some damage to crops and pastures; low water levels in streams, reservoirs or wells; developing water shortages; and voluntary water-usage restrictions. Moderate drought is the lowest of four drought conditions, which include severe, extreme and exceptional drought.
Fifty-two of North Carolina's 100 counties were under some level of drought conditions Thursday. Twenty-five of those counties were classified as being in severe drought, which could mean crop losses are likely and water shortages are common. Most of the severe-drought counties are located in the state's Piedmont region.
Seven more counties were added for drought conditions since Feb. 3, which marked the first time since September that North Carolina experienced a severe drought, according to NCDENR. An additional 31 counties, located mostly in the western part of the state, were listed Thursday as abnormally dry. That classification doesn't constitute a drought, but it means drought conditions could emerge without adequate rainfall.
"At this point, public water supplies are fine in North Carolina," said Woody Younts, chairman of the N.C. Drought Management Advisory Council.
"But if dry conditions continue to occur, widespread impacts could quickly surface in the next few months as temperatures begin to gradually increase and the growing season begins."
Water-use restrictions aren't in place in Catawba County, but there are things residents can do to conserve water before mandatory restricts are enacted.
The Catawba Wateree Management Group recommends using dishwashers and washing machines only when they are full, replacing older toilets with ones that require less water, turning off faucets when brushing teeth, installing rain barrels to water gardens instead of using a hose and limiting showers to 3-4 minutes.
This time last year, no counties in North Carolina were under drought conditions, according to NCDENR.