July 26th, 2002 - Dry July: Drought Advisory Continued
BOSTON, MA - The Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force, at a July 25th meeting at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Headquarters in Framingham, recommended that the statewide drought advisory continue.
Although May and June precipitation was above normal, July precipitation in Massachusetts has been far below normal. July precipitation to date is on average 1.3 inches statewide, compared to a normal amount of 3.6 inches. Precipitation totals for the month of July averaged only 37% of normal. The southeast and Cape Cod regions have received less than half an inch of rain this month. The rains in July were primarily thunderstorms and spotty in nature. Although the state's rainfall improved steadily between March and June 2002, July's lack of precipitation has caused surface water and ground water conditions to deteriorate. The National Weather Service is forecasting drier than normal conditions for New England through November 2002 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that drought conditions are likely to develop in the region over this period.
Water supply reservoirs throughout Massachusetts appear to be at levels that are able to meet current demands. The Quabbin Reservoir, operated by the Metropolitan District Commission, is 84.5% full, remaining in 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. Many public water suppliers continue to impose some level of water use restriction in July, though often at a less severe level than earlier this year. Water suppliers on the Cape and Islands and Southeastern Massachusetts in particular have expressed concern about the extreme dry conditions for that region during July.
Stream flows were at normal levels across the state between May and July, although in many areas, the streamflow is now at the low end of the normal range and continuing to decline. Ground water levels were primarily in the normal range between May and June, although some areas of the Commonwealth remained below normal, including the Cape and Islands, and parts of the southeast, northeast and the Connecticut River Valley. The below normal groundwater levels on the Cape and Islands reflect a long-term precipitation deficit, a situation that has existed since June of 1999. The areas of below normal ground water levels can be expected to expand as a result of the below-normal rainfall.
A drought advisory was initially issued for the entire state in December 2001 following significantly below normal levels of precipitation last fall. The entire state was raised to a drought watch in early March. In early June, because of the above normal precipitation in May and early June, the state was reduced to a drought advisory level. At the July Drought Management Task Force meeting, the Drought Advisory was continued for the entire state, with particular concern emphasized for the southeast, Cape Cod and Islands regions. The Drought Advisory indicates a level of dry conditions across the state that warrant tracking by state, federal and local agencies. The advisory level is the second 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 National Weather Service forecasts normal temperatures and below normal precipitation for the months of August, September, and October. The Drought Management Task Force will continue to monitor conditions in the coming weeks to assess drought impacts. 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.
Fire danger is a significant concern during the summer months, and this year there are increased concerns for the southeast, Cape Cod and islands, and western regions of Massachusetts. In addition to being drier than normal, July began with a heat wave, which rapidly increased fire danger levels throughout the state. Forest fires have occurred and have been difficult to extinguish as a result of the prolonged dry conditions that occurred over the past year. Extreme caution should be exercised with fire associated with outdoor activities (such as campfires, barbecues, fireworks, and cigarette disposal). As environmental resources associated with rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands remain at risk, continued water conservation efforts are recommended. The Drought Management Task Force recommends that communities and citizens continue to conserve water to sustain public water supplies and minimize environmental impacts of the dry conditions.
To respond to this drought advisory, the Drought Management Task Force recommends that water conservation efforts continue to be made. Water conservation tips for public water suppliers and citizens can be downloaded at: http://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, assure water supply availability and protect environmental resources. Homeowners and other water users are advised to follow any guidance and adhere to any restrictions put in place by their local water supplier. Care should be taken with outdoor fire uses. Homeowners and other facilities with private wells are advised to monitor local conditions accordingly. Municipalities are urged to implement water use restriction bylaws and ordinances to allow for system demand management if necessary during the summer months.
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.