December 28th, 2001 - Drought Advisory
BOSTON, MA - The Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force, following a recent meeting at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Headquarters in Framingham, has issued a statewide drought advisory. Steadily declining precipitation since August and an extremely dry November have resulted in dry conditions statewide. Though fall and winter months are not peak water use periods, they are typically the time when reservoirs and groundwater are recharged. Continued dry weather over the winter could quickly lead to more serious drought conditions when warmer weather and increased water use begin in the spring. The National Weather Service has noted that historically, the most severe droughts in New England have begun with drier than normal winters.
The drought advisory indicates a level of dry conditions across the state that warrant closer tracking by state, federal and local agencies. The advisory level is the second of five action level related 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 Cape Cod and the islands, the northeast, and the central regions of the state. Some smaller reservoir systems in these areas are near record lows for this time of year. However, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority supply system is still within normal operating range. The Drought Management Task Force will begin 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 advisory, the Drought Management Task Force recommends that water conservation efforts 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 50% below normal for the months of September, October and November. December is currently also below normal for precipitation. In addition, streamflow is near record lows in many areas of the state. Ground water levels have also declined, although these are slower to respond than streamflow to the rainfall deficit. In particular, Cape Cod has experienced rainfall deficits and below normal groundwater levels since 1999 and has yet to recover. High fire danger levels and forest fires this fall were the result of a lack of rainfall and unseasonably warm temperatures. Other New England states and New York have also been suffering from drought conditions since early summer.
This drought advisory 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, 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.