BOSTON — Low precipitation since May and recent above normal temperatures have led to drying conditions across the Commonwealth and steep declines in precipitation and streamflow in several regions. As a result, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Kathleen Theoharides today declared a Level 2 – Significant Drought in the Connecticut River Valley, Western, Central, and Northeast regions, and a Level 0 – Normal Conditions for the Southeast, Cape, and Islands regions. At 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.
“The Baker-Polito Administration continues to closely monitor the very dry conditions, and this drought declaration is an important tool which will help officials on all levels of government to work together to address the drought,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “While the dry conditions continue and as we enter the summer months, we ask residents and businesses to aggressively conserve water and take increased care with any outdoor burning.”
“With the drying conditions across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is asking the public to actively conserve water by reducing indoor and outdoor water usage” said MEMA Director Samantha Phillips. “Because of the increased threat of brush and wildland fires due to the dry conditions, the public is urged 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 the result of a recommendation issued 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.
The quick decline of the state’s rainfall since May, as well as recent high temperatures and below normal rainfall continuing from the winter months, led to the drought condition, with cumulative precipitation deficits of one and a half to three inches below normal for the months of May and June. 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 has been steadily increasing across interior portions of the state over the last 30 days. With over 110 wildfires in the last 30 days, and as drought conditions increase, the fires are burning deeper into the ground fuels, making it challenging for firefighters to extinguish these 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 it did not warrant a drought declaration at this time. The state asks residents in the Connecticut River Valley, Western, Central, and Northeast regions to be mindful of the amount of water they are using, and to be proactive in reducing or eliminating outdoor water use, and reduce indoor water use, 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.
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.
“We encourage water suppliers to educate and work with their customers on managing demand during this time period,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “It is important to administer the best conservation practices to avoid added stress on our drinking water sources and other water-dependent habitats.”
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 next meet in July.
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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