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‘Significant drought’ declared in all regions in Mass., residents urged to limit water use

Low water flow at the North Branch of the Hoosic River down from the Natural Bridge State Park on Beaver Street in North Adams on Sunday, July 12. On Friday, state officials declared a Level 2 drought for all regions of Massachusetts, urging citizens to limit their water consumption.
Low water flow at the North Branch of the Hoosic River down from the Natural Bridge State Park on Beaver Street in North Adams on Sunday, July 12. On Friday, state officials declared a Level 2 drought for all regions of Massachusetts, urging citizens to limit their water consumption.Gillian Jones/Associated Press

Following unusually high temperatures in July and so far this month, state officials have declared a Level 2 drought for all regions of Massachusetts, urging citizens to limit their water consumption, state officials announced Friday.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides declared a “Level 2 – Significant Drought” in all of the state’s regions, according to a joint statement from Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Drought Management Task Force, and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

“The combination of three months of limited rainfall and well above normal temperatures through July and early August have led to very dry conditions in every region of Massachusetts,” Theoharides said in the statement. “All levels of government are coordinating to address these critical drought conditions.”

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Officials said the conditions “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.”

“It is essential that residents and businesses across the Commonwealth take extra care to conserve water both indoors and outdoors and be mindful of the increased risk of wildland fires when using any fire or smoking materials,” Theoharides said.

The state “strongly urges” residents and businesses to limit indoor and outdoor water consumption, according to a statement from Craig Gilvarg, EEA spokesman. Residents should only use hand-held hoses or watering cans, and should limit their use to either before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.

Because dry conditions may lead to an increased threat of brush fires, MEMA officials insisted that citizens be extra cautious when using charcoal grills, matches, and open flames outdoors.

The decision to declare a Significant Drought was made following a recent meeting with federal and state officials who compose the Drought Management Task Force, the statement said. The declaration will remain in effect until water levels return to normal.

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The state recorded the second-hottest July on record last month, officials said. Few areas received normal amounts of rainfall, and most areas had a deficit of 1 to 3 inches.

Temperatures in August have been 2 to 4 degrees above average so far, and above average temperatures are predicted over the coming weeks and months, the statement said.

The majority of the regions are experiencing a “classic long-term drought,” while regions such as Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod, and the Islands are experiencing conditions similar to a “flash drought,” officials said.

A flash drought is classified as “a rapid onset drought with decreased precipitation, above normal temperatures, and incoming radiation resulting in abnormally high evapotranspiration all combining to increase fire danger and decrease crop moisture levels,” the statement said.

The task force noted that streamflow improved throughout July because of scattered rain, but worsened overall in most regions throughout the first two weeks of August.

Matt Berg can be reached at matthew.berg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.