Drought Warning, Watch, Advisory Issued for Portions of Commonwealth
Monitoring of Water Resources to Continue, Water Conservation Urged
BOSTON – August 12, 2016 – With most of Massachusetts continuing to experience dry conditions for a fifth straight month, today, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton declared the following drought levels throughout the Commonwealth: a Drought Warning for Central and Northeast Massachusetts, up from a Drought Watch in July; a Drought Watch for Southeast Massachusetts and the Connecticut River Valley, up from a Drought Advisory in July; and a Drought Advisory for Western Massachusetts and the Cape and Islands. The declaration was the result of a recommendation issued from a recent meeting of the Drought Management Task Force, comprised of state, federal and local officials, and will remain in effect until water levels return to normal in the affected regions.
“The declaration made today represents the lasting agricultural, environmental, economic, and public safety impacts associated with prolonged drought conditions,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The Baker-Polito Administration will continue to work with the Drought Management Task Force, government officials, and stakeholders to ensure appropriate actions are taken to minimize any harmful effects of the drought. The public is strongly encouraged to limit outdoor water usage, and integrate water-saving techniques into their daily routines.”
“With drought conditions persisting, and worsening in some areas, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is asking the public to actively conserve water by reducing indoor and outdoor water usage” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Director Kurt Schwartz. “Additionally, because of the increased threat of brush and wildland fires due to the extremely dry conditions, the public is urged to exercise extreme caution when using matches, charcoal grills, and other open flames during outdoor activities.”
A Drought Warning, as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, indicates consecutive months of groundwater, stream flow, and reservoir levels being below normal, and initiates a much more concerted set of government responses including instating water restrictions, and more intensified monitoring and coordination between the agencies. Areas within the Drought Warning are currently experiencing precipitation levels 5-8 inches below normal over past four months. The declaration of a Drought Watch represents extremely low groundwater and streamflow levels resulting from prolonged periods of precipitation deficit, including a lack of snowfall in the winter months. The declaration of a Drought Watch warrants detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, and technical outreach and assistance for the affected municipalities. Additionally, a Drought Advisory indicates a level of dry conditions that warrants closer tracking by government agencies.
The state continues to intensely monitor and assess the drought situation, and environmental and agricultural impacts, and asks the public to be mindful of the amount of water they are using, and to limit outdoor water use to ensure essential needs such as drinking water, fire protection, and crop hydration are being met.
For Regions in Drought Warning:
- Outdoor water use should be banned.
For Regions in Drought Watch:
- Outdoor watering should be limited to “handheld” with a hose or a watering can after 5pm or before 9am (to avoid evaporative losses); and
- Filling swimming pools, washing cars and washing buildings should be prohibited.
For Regions in Drought Advisory:
- Outdoor watering with irrigation systems and sprinklers should be limited to no more than one day per week; and
- Watering with a handheld hose should be limited to after 5pm or before 9 am (to avoid evaporative losses).
Certain water uses are not subject to mandatory restrictions, those include: for health or safety reasons; the production of food and fiber; the maintenance of livestock; and to meet the core functions of a business. Additionally, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is providing technical assistance to communities on managing systems, including assistance on use of emergency connections and water supplies, as well as assisting towns on how to request a declaration of drought emergency.
“We are asking people to heed the restrictions put on non-essential outdoor water use – especially when lawn-watering – that local water suppliers are putting in place to conserve important resources under these adverse conditions,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “MassDEP will continue to provide technical assistance to water suppliers.”
Task Force officials noted that while reservoir levels, especially smaller systems, are low for this time of year, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) water supply system is not currently experiencing drought conditions, as defined within its individual plan.
The declaration of a Drought Warning, Drought Watch, and Drought Advisory requires the Drought Management Task Force to meet on a regular basis to more closely assess conditions across the state, coordinate dissemination of information to the public, and help state, federal and local agencies prepare any responses that may be needed in the future. The Task Force will next meet in September. For further information on water conservation and what you can do, visit the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s drought management page and the MassDEP Water Conservation page.
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