Drought Conditions Continue for Large Portions of Mass.

By ecoRI News staff

With large portions of Massachusetts continuing to experience rainfall amounts remaining below average for a seventh straight month, Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary Matthew Beaton has declared a drought warning for the Connecticut River Valley, Central, Northeast and Southeast Massachusetts, unchanged for the Central, Northeast and Southeast regions, and up from a drought watch for the Connecticut River Valley in September; and a drought watch for the Cape and Islands and western Massachusetts, up from a drought advisory for western Massachusetts and unchanged for the Cape and Islands in September.

The declaration was the result of a recommendation issued from a recent meeting of the Drought Management Task Force, comprised of state, federal and local officials, and will remain in effect until water levels return to normal in the affected regions.

“Most of Massachusetts received very little precipitation during the month of September, preventing needed relief from the ongoing drought conditions currently being experienced throughout much of the state,” Beaton said. “Water reservoirs, groundwater, streamflow, and soil moisture levels continue to decline, severely impacting the commonwealth’s riverine habitats and fisheries, agricultural sector, and elevating the risk of fire. Now more important than ever, we all must administer best water conservation practices to avoid additional stress on our drinking water sources and other water dependent habitats.”

A drought warning, as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, indicates consecutive months of groundwater, streamflow and reservoir levels being below normal, and initiates a much more concerted set of government responses including instating water restrictions. Areas within the drought warning are currently experiencing precipitation levels below normal for six out of seven consecutive months.

The declaration of a drought watch represents extremely low groundwater and streamflow levels resulting from prolonged periods of precipitation deficit, including a lack of snowfall in the winter. This declaration warrants detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, and technical outreach and assistance for the affected municipalities.

For regions in drought warning: outdoor water use should be eliminated.

For regions in drought watch: outdoor water use should be limited to “handheld watering” with a hose or a watering can after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m., to avoid evaporative losses; filling swimming pools, washing cars and washing buildings is prohibited.

For regions in drought advisory: outdoor watering with irrigation systems and sprinklers should be limited to no more than one day a week; outdoor water use should be limited to “handheld watering” with a hose or a watering can after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m., to avoid evaporative losses.

“MassDEP strongly encourages suppliers to keep outdoor restrictions in place into October,” Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Martin Suuberg said. “The prolonged drought created a significant water deficit that will need time and a return to normal precipitation patterns to replenish.”

Drought task force officials noted that while reservoir levels, especially smaller systems, are low for this time of year, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) water supply system isn’t currently experiencing drought conditions.