May 9, 2002 - Despite April Showers, Statewide Drought Watch Continues
BOSTON, MA - The Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force, at a May 7th meeting at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Headquarters in Framingham, continued the statewide drought watch.
Despite recent rains, April precipitation was slightly below normal and therefore did not help to eliminate the long-term rainfall deficit. While many smaller reservoirs have generally recovered, medium and large reservoirs are responding more slowly and may not refill entirely before the high summer water use begins. Most water suppliers look to have full reservoirs by the end of April to be prepared for summer. Stream flow and groundwater levels remain below normal across the state. Fire danger levels have been unusually high for this time of year and there have been several large fires along with many small ones in recent weeks. A drought advisory was initially issued for the entire state in December following below normal levels of precipitation last fall. The entire state was raised to a drought watch in early March.
The National Weather Service has stated that they expect near normal temperatures and slightly below normal precipitation for most of May. Precipitation totals for the month of April averaged 85% of normal. According to the U.S. Geological Survey groundwater and streamflow levels statewide are below normal for the seventh consecutive month. Although groundwater and streamflow levels have been rising, they are reaching their highest point of the year. Because of their low levels, without significant rainfall, streamflow and ground water levels may drop quickly in response to increased spring temperatures, foliage development and water use.
The Drought Watch level indicates hydrologic conditions are favorable for development of a more serious drought. The watch level is the 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.
Water supply reservoir impacts have occurred statewide. The Quabbin Reservoir, operated by the Metropolitan District Commission, has entered into the below normal system status. However, due to its large storage capacity, the system can withstand extended dry periods without affecting its ability to supply water. All regions have increased susceptibility to wildfires due to unusually dry soil conditions.
The state's rainfall has declined steadily since the middle of August 2001, with cumulative precipitation 68% of normal for the last seven months, or 8.5 inches less than the historic average of 26.2 inches. Streamflow and ground water levels have remained below normal for 7 months. Other New England states and New York have also been suffering from drought conditions since early in the summer of 2001.
The Drought Management Task Force will continue to monitor the conditions closely in the coming weeks as there is the potential for rapidly worsening conditions. The Task Force assesses conditions across the state, coordinates dissemination of information to the public, and helps state, federal and local agencies coordinate any responses that may be needed.
To respond to this drought watch, the Drought Management Task Force recommends that water conservation efforts continue to be made. The Task Force has prepared water conservation tips for public water suppliers and citizens which can be downloaded at: www.state.ma.us/dem/programs/rainfall/drought.htm. 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 and other water users are advised to follow any guidance and adhere to any restrictions that may be put in place by their local water supplier. Due to high fire danger, care should be taken with outdoor fire uses. Homeowners and other facilities 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 drought watch level is 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, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 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 at www.state.ma.us/mema.