Most of Massachusetts now at critical drought level, environmental officials say

·5 min read

The Connecticut River Valley and Southeast regions of Massachusetts were deemed a Level 3-Critical drought Tuesday, joining the Northeast and Central parts of the state.

The Cape Cod region was elevated to a Level 2-Significant drought,a nd the Islands and Western regions remained at a Level 1-Mild drought.

“With the majority of the state now experiencing a Level-3-Critical Drought, it is incredibly important that we all practice water conservation and adhere to local requirements and recommendations in order avoid over stressing our water resources,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “Efforts to minimize water usage now will help our water systems to rebound more quickly, and ensure that essential public health, safety and environmental needs continue to be met.”

In July, the state experienced minimal precipitation and high temperatures. Rainfall was the lowest across eastern Massachusetts, particularly on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, where less than an inch of rain was reported. Boston and the Blue Hills experienced the fourth-driest July on record, and rainfall totals across the eastern part of the state ranked within the top 15 driest.

However, slightly higher rainfall totals occurred across much of central and western Massachusetts, ranging from 50-100 percent of normal, as well as on Nantucket. Totals ranged mostly between 2-4 inches, while some locations in the Springfield area and southern Berkshire County experienced higher totals of 4-5 inches.

“The continued dry, hot weather has increased drought-related hazards for much of Massachusetts including the risk for fires,” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Acting Director Dawn Brantley. “We need the public to be especially careful during this time by adhering to local water use restrictions, and exercising caution around any outdoor activities that increase the risk of brush and forest fires such as barbecues, campfires, and safe disposal of smoking materials.”

Environmental officials say the state is also seeing decreasing water levels in some reservoirs, dry stream beds, ponding and diminished extent of streams in many watersheds. This has led to lack of flow, increased turbidity, higher water temperature and increase in growth of plants and algae in th water.

Officials also warn about an increase in fires, particularly in remote areas, which can be challenging to fight. Residents are asked to exercise caution while working with open flames and to drown all campfires out cold.

For Regions in Level 3 – Critical Drought

Residents and Businesses:

• Minimize overall water use.

• Stop all non-essential outdoor watering.

Immediate Steps for Communities:

• Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought; Level 3 restriction calls for a ban on all nonessential outdoor water use.

• Provide timely information on the drought and on water conservation tips to local residents and businesses.

• Enforce water use restrictions with increasingly stringent penalties.

• Strongly discourage or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; filling of swimming pools.

• Establish or enhance water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.

Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:

• Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication.

• Implement or establish drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.

• Prepare to activate emergency inter-connections for water supply.

• Develop or refine your local drought management plan using guidance outlined in the state Drought Management Plan.

For Regions in Level 2 – Significant Drought

Residents and Businesses:

• Minimize overall water use;

• Limit outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m.

• Follow local water use restrictions, if more stringent.

Immediate Steps for Communities:

• Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought; Level 2 restriction calls for limiting outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m. If local restrictions are more stringent, continue to keep them in place during the course of the drought.

• Limit or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; filling of swimming pools.

• Establish water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.

Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:

• Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication.

• Provide timely information to local residents and businesses.

• Implement or establish drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.

• Check emergency inter-connections for water supply.

• Develop or refine your local drought management plan using guidance outlined in the state Drought Management Plan.

For Regions in Level 1 – Mild Drought

Residents and Businesses:

• Toilets, faucets and showers are more than 60% of indoor use. Make sure yours are WaterSense efficient.

• Limit outdoor watering to one day a week (only from 5:00 pm – 9:00 am), or less frequently if required by your water supplier

Immediate Steps for Communities:

• Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought.

• Limit or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; filling of swimming pools.

• Establish water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.

Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:

• Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication.

• Provide timely information to local residents and businesses.

• Implement or establish drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.

• Check emergency inter-connections for water supply.

• Develop a local drought management plan using guidance outlined in the state Drought Management Plan.

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