BOSTON — With rainfall amounts remaining below average and continued warm weather, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Kathleen Theoharides today declared a continuation of Level 2 – Significant Drought in the Western, Connecticut River Valley and Central regions, a Level 1 – Mild Drought in the Northeast region, a downgrade from Level 2; and a Level 1 – Mild Drought in the Cape Cod region up from a Level 0, Normal condition. Conditions in the Southeast and Islands regions remain at a Level 0 – Normal Conditions. At a Level 2 – Significant Drought, as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, conditions are becoming significantly dry and warrant detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, emphasis on water conservation, more stringent watering restrictions, and technical outreach and assistance for the affected municipalities.
“Despite recent rainfall, conditions remain very dry in many regions across the Commonwealth, and it is essential that we coordinate throughout all levels of government to address these increasingly critical drought conditions,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “We urge residents and businesses throughout Massachusetts, especially in the Western, Connecticut River Valley and Central regions, to take important steps to conserve water and use extra caution with any fire and smoking materials.”
“While the Commonwealth has experienced some recent beneficial rainfall, drought conditions remain in areas given the long-term precipitation deficit and other metrics. The public is urged to continue conserving water in order to reduce the demand on water supplies.” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Director Samantha Phillips. “Dry conditions increase the threat of brush and wildland fires, so we urge residents to exercise caution when using charcoal grills, matches, and other open flames during outdoor activities and to call 911 immediately if there is a fire to prevent the fire from spreading.”
The declaration was informed by recommendations and discussions from a recent meeting of the Drought Management Task Force (DMTF), composed of state and federal officials and other entities, and will remain in effect until water levels return to normal in the affected regions.
While regions across the Commonwealth experienced some rainfall over the past several weeks, and more is expected this weekend in western Massachusetts, precipitation continues to be at a deficit. Meanwhile, streamflow has worsened in the Connecticut River Valley. Data from the state’s groundwater and streamflow network show low levels in many locations, including record low values beginning to emerge.
In addition, wildland fire risk continues across interior portions of the state. As drought conditions increase, fires can be expected to burn deeper into the ground fuels, making it challenging for firefighters to extinguish fires and taking multiple days to contain them.
The state continues to intensely monitor and assess the drought situation, and any associated environmental and agricultural impacts. Task Force officials also noted drying conditions in the Southeast and Cape Cod regions, although both regions remain in normal conditions. The state asks residents in the Connecticut River Valley, Western, Central, Northeast, and Cape Cod regions to be mindful of the amount of water they are using, to be proactive in reducing or eliminating outdoor water use, to reduce indoor water use, and to address plumbing leaks as soon as possible. Limiting nonessential outdoor watering is one of the most effective ways to minimize the impacts of drought on water supply and the environment, and ensure there is enough water for fire protection. All these steps will help reduce water use to ensure essential needs such as drinking water and fire protection are being met, and habitats have enough water to recover.
For Regions in Level 2 – Significant Drought
Residents and Businesses:
- Minimize overall water use;
- Limit outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m. one day a week.
For Regions in Level 1 – Mild Drought
Residents and Businesses:
- Toilets, faucets and showers are more than 60% of indoor use. Make sure yours are WaterSense efficient.
- Limit outdoor watering to one day a week (only from 5:00 pm – 9:00 am), or less frequently if required by your water supplier
Immediate Steps for Communities:
- Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought.
- Limit or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; operation of non-recirculating fountains; filling of swimming pools, hot tubs, and backyard informal rinks.
- Implement drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.
- Establish water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.
Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:
- Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication;
- Provide timely information to local residents and businesses;
- Check emergency inter-connections for water supply; and
- Develop a local drought management plan.
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.
“Water suppliers should continue to work with their customers and educate them on strategies to manage demand during this time period,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “It is essential that regions across Massachusetts embrace conservation practices to avoid added stress on drinking water resources and other water-dependent habitats.”
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 Level 2 – Significant Drought 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 meet on a more frequent bi-weekly basis for the next several months; the next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 23 at 10:00 am and will be held virtually via Zoom.
Last year, EEA completed a two-year process and updated the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan to better assess drought conditions across the state and maximize the state’s ability to prepare for and respond to a drought. The Plan also provides guidance to communities on drought preparedness and outlines response actions that can be taken at the local level.
For further information on water conservation and what residents and communities can do, visit the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ drought page.
–Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
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