November 5th, 2002 - Drought Task Force Continues Advisory; Recent Rains Improve Conditions but Recovery Still Under Way
BOSTON, MA - The Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force, at its October 31, 2002 meeting at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Headquarters in Framingham, recommended that the entire state be held at a drought advisory level as the impacts from the drought continue to linger. Prior to the meeting most of the state was at the Advisory Level and the southeast and Cape Cod/Islands regions of the state had been at a watch level.
Precipitation levels were above normal for September and October -- on average 110 percent of normal. Although the state's rainfall has improved during the past two months, surface water reservoirs and ground water conditions have not completely recovered from the hot and dry summer months, which is the reason the Task Force continued the Advisory. The Task Force concluded that in relation to precipitation levels, the drought appears to have ended. However, impacts to groundwater hydrology have not yet recovered from record or near record low levels. A normal or above normal winter precipitation will be needed to fully recover from remaining deficit from last winter.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that drought conditions will continue to recede from New England through January 2003. Currently, El Nino conditions are forecast to cause warmer than normal temperatures and normal amounts of rainfall in Massachusetts. El Nino temperatures may mean more rain than snow in Massachusetts during the upcoming winter.
Fire danger levels have diminished with the fall rains and cooler temperatures. If precipitation events continue to occur regularly, fire danger levels are expected to remain low over the winter months. If precipitation events become infrequent, a period of heightened fire danger may occur during November.
The peak summer water use period has passed, but some public water supply reservoirs remain below normal and some wells are nearing minimum water levels throughout the state. Water suppliers and the public are encouraged to continue conservation efforts until groundwater and surface water has fully recovered. Those people using private wells should also continue to conserve as low groundwater levels can limit water availability. The Quabbin Reservoir, operated by the Metropolitan District Commission, is 76.3 percent 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. Several public water suppliers have eased water use restrictions in the past month.
Stream flows reached normal levels across most the state during September and October, and continue to show steady improvement. Ground water levels have not yet recovered to normal levels, despite two months of normal to above-normal precipitation. Drier than normal soil conditions and an extended growing season due to warm temperatures in September may partially explain the delay in recharge to these resources. The fall and winter are normally the primary seasons for ground water recharge and restoration of ground water levels. Development of a snowpack and the subsequent spring snowmelt would also help to end the effects of the recent drought conditions.
The Drought Management Task Force will continue to closely monitor water resources. Ground water recharge during the fall and winter will be essential for recovery from the past year's drought conditions.
To respond to this drought advisory, the Drought Management Task Force recommends that water conservation efforts continue to be made to sustain public water supplies and minimize environmental impacts of the dry conditions. 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. 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. Extreme care should be taken with outdoor fires.
The Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force is composed of liaisons from Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Department of Environmental Management, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Fish & Wildlife, Department of Food & Agriculture, 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 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.
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.