February 12th, 2002 - Drought Status
BOSTON, MA - The Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force, following a recent meeting at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Headquarters in Framingham, has issued a drought watch for the Connecticut Valley and Central regions of Massachusetts. The remaining portions of Massachusetts remain at a drought advisory level. Massachusetts was put into a drought advisory following below normal levels of precipitation last fall. Though fall and winter months are not peak water use periods, they are typically the time when reservoirs and groundwater are recharged. Continued below normal levels of precipitation in December and January have resulted in low reservoir levels for small and medium water supply systems across the state. The period for significant recharge for reservoirs generally ends in the early spring. With only six weeks remaining in this recharge period more serious conditions could quickly develop when water use increases. The National Weather Service is predicting equal chances for normal, above normal or below normal precipitation this spring.
The drought advisory indicates a level of dry conditions across the state that warrant closer tracking by state, federal and local agencies. The watch level indicates a more imminent threat of drought conditions, which can impact water availability for the summer months. The advisory and watch levels are the second and third of five action levels related to drought conditions that are outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan. The five action levels of the Drought Management Plan are: Normal, Advisory, Watch, Warning and Emergency.
The most severely affected areas of the state include the Central and Connecticut Valley regions of the state. Groundwater levels, streamflows and some medium and large reservoir systems in these areas are near record lows for this time of year. However, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority supply system is still operating within the normal range. The Drought Management Task Force is meeting on a regular basis to assess conditions across the state, coordinate dissemination of information to the public, and help state, federal and local agencies coordinate any responses that may be needed.
To respond to this drought watch and advisory, the Drought Management Task Force recommends that water conservation efforts continue to be made over the winter months to guard against potential water shortages in the spring and to reduce the drought's impact on aquatic ecosystems. Public water suppliers should implement drought response plans as necessary to respond to their system requirements and assure water supply availability in the event of below normal spring recharge. Homeowners with private wells are advised to monitor local conditions accordingly. If not already in place, municipalities are urged to develop water use restriction bylaws and ordinances to allow for system demand management when the spring and summer peak water use period begins.
The state's rainfall has declined steadily since the middle of August 2001, with cumulative precipitation 48% below normal for the period of October through January. In addition, streamflow is near record lows in many areas of the state. Ground water levels have declined steadily since October. Other New England states and New York have also been suffering from drought conditions since early summer.
The drought watch and advisory levels are based on thresholds contained in the state's Drought Management Plan. The Drought Management Plan was developed by the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The purpose of the plan is to guide state activities in response to droughts and extended periods of dry weather.
The Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force is composed of liaisons from Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Department of Fish & Wildlife, Massachusetts Department of Food & Agriculture, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Metropolitan District Commission, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Weather Service, Massachusetts Water Works Association, the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards and the Water Supply Citizens Advisory Committee.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is the state agency responsible for coordinating federal, state and local resources to protect the public during disasters and emergencies. MEMA helps develop plans for effective response to all hazards, trains emergency personnel, provides information to families and communities, and assists in recovery from disaster losses. You can learn about MEMA and this topic by visiting the MEMA homepage.