- Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
- Water Resources Commission
- Drought Management Task Force
Boston — March 10, 2017 – While many areas of the state experienced some levels of precipitation in February, a majority of the state continues to experience a water deficit. As a result, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton today declared the following drought levels throughout the Commonwealth: a Drought Watch for the Connecticut River Valley and Southeast Region, down from a Drought Warning in the month of February; and a Drought Advisory for the Western, Central, and Northeast Region as well as the Cape and Islands, down from a Drought Watch for the Western and Central Regions in the month of February, and unchanged for the Northeast Region and 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 and federal officials, and other entities, and will remain in effect until water levels return to normal in the affected regions.
“While we remain cautiously optimistic of recent rain events, the Commonwealth is still in the midst of a long-term drought, which has resulted in a precipitation deficit over the course of more than two years,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The Baker-Polito Administration asks that the public continues to monitor indoor home water usage by fixing leaks in their system and practicing best water conservation methods in order to allow the state’s water systems to further rebound.”
“Drought conditions across the Commonwealth improved over the past month as a result of precipitation and the public’s water conservation efforts. Nonetheless, the drought persists and it remains critical that the public continues to conserve water,” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Director Kurt Schwartz. “Additionally, with spring and summer fast approaching, and the likelihood of drought conditions continuing for the foreseeable future, now is the time to plan for, and implement outdoor water conservation measures to offset the expected seasonal increase in the demand for water to support recreational and agricultural activities.”
A Drought Watch, as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, warrants detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, and technical outreach and assistance for the affected municipalities. The declaration of 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 any associated environmental and agricultural impacts. Furthermore, the state asks the public to be mindful of the amount of water they are using, and to reduce indoor water use, address leaks as soon as possible, and for larger buildings and businesses to conduct water audits to ensure they identify areas of leaks and potential water conservation. All these steps will greatly help reduce water use to ensure essential needs such as drinking water and fire protection are being met, habitats have enough water to recover, and to stretch our water supplies into the spring.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) continues to provide 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.
“After several months of near normal precipitation we have seen conditions improve, but we are still dealing with a deficit acquired over the last two years,” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “The next two months are especially important to ensure that we enter the heavy water-use season with conditions as near-normal as possible. We ask for people’s continued attention to conservation and advise everyone to be aware of any specific limitations imposed by their local public water system.”
Task Force officials also noted the lack of snow pack at this time of the year that would typically result in slow recharge of the ground during the winter and spring months. Additionally, officials noted that while reservoir levels are recovering during this natural recharge period, some are still below normal. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) water supply system is not currently experiencing drought conditions, as defined within its individual plan.
“Unfortunately, we did not get much of a snowpack in the Quabbin Reservoir watershed and the recent rains seemed to have missed it as well,” said MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey. “It is going to be increasingly important that residents and businesses practice conservation measures as we start getting into the warmer months.”
The declaration of a Drought Watch and a 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 April. For further information on water conservation and what residents can do, visit the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ drought page, the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s drought management page, and the MassDEP Water Conservation page.