Lakes running dry, crops threatened and storms without rain: Striking images capture what the drought looks like in Connecticut

·3 min read

Connecticut is in the midst of a drought, which is shaping up to be the worst the state has seen since 2016.

It is affecting farm crops, garden centers, our foliage and even the way we live.

On average, the Hartford area should have received about 33 inches of rain since the first of the year, but just 22 inches have fallen, according to the National Weather Service.

Courant photographer Mark Mirko set out to capture what that looks like, from low water to the effects of a recent brush fire.

Here are scenes from across the region that capture the impact the drought is having on our state:

As the drought conditions in Connecticut worsen, the “ghost bridge” of Colebrook River Lake has reappeared, just as it did during the drought of 2016.

During years of normal rainfall, the bridge rests out-of-sight under billions of gallons of water in Colebrook River Lake. It was submerged in 1969, along with the village of Colebrook River, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the lake for flood management.

With heavy rains and flooding in Connecticut a distant memory, the United States Drought Monitor has placed all of Connecticut under drought conditions. Its Oct. 15 map shows Hartford, Tolland, Windham and New London counties under “extreme drought” conditions subject to “widespread crop loss,” “extremely reduced flow to ceased flow of water” and “wells are running dry.”

Dairy farmer Brandon Smith has been feeling the effects since June.

Smith says he trucks in water every day. “At the peak of it, when it was 90 degrees out, I’d start my days between 2 and 3 in the morning,” he said.

During that hottest part of the summer, Smith, 27, says he would haul 6,000 gallons of water from a Norwich well to his 1,800 thirsty cows in Franklin until about 10 a.m. Then he would chop grass or corn until dark, when he would then have to go haul more water. By finishing time at 10 p.m. he could haul up to 30,000 gallons.

Smith says his cows, which produce 90 pounds of milk a day, require about 30 gallons of water a day or, as he puts it, “a bath tub of water.”

This year Smith also grew 1,500 acres of corn and 1,000 acres of hay for cattle feed, but those farmers across Connecticut are also experiencing lower yields as their crops receive less rain.

Most corn crops in Connecticut have been harvested by now, temperatures are cooling and some rain is in the forecast, but the U.S. Drought Monitor forecasts the drought will remain.

On Oct. 21, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will be hosting an effort named “Imagine A Day Without Water.” More information can be found at https://imagineadaywithoutwater.org

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