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Southeastern Mass., Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard in mild drought zone, state officials say

Drought map from Mass. EEA.Mass. EEA

State Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Bethany Card has declared Southeastern Massachusetts, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard a “Level 1-Mild Drought” zone, after sporadic rainfall totals in recent months resulted in below-average precipitation in the region, officials said.

Card’s decision was confirmed in a statement posted to the agency’s website Wednesday.

“The irregular rainfall has resulted in less than average spring precipitation numbers; the southeastern of the state has been most impacted,” the statement said. “Significantly, due to high evapotranspiration and early leaf out occurring, available water in the hydrological systems have been decreasing.”

All other regions of the state remain in “Level 0-Normal” conditions, the statement said.

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As Massachusetts enters the growing season, the statement said, officials are asking residents and businesses to only plant native and drought-resistant plants.

In addition, officials said residents “particularly in Level 1 – Mild Drought areas” should limit outdoor watering to one time a week, before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m.

“While water supplies are currently doing fine, many communities are proactively instituting watering restrictions; individuals are encouraged to also follow watering requirements outlined by their communities’ Public Water Supplier,” the statement said.

Meanwhile the US Drought Monitor, a collaboration between US government researchers and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, on Thursday rated a swathe of eastern Massachusetts “abnormally dry.”

The monitor’s website on Thursday morning gave the abnormally dry designation to Suffolk County and parts of Essex, Bristol, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties.

Under abnormally dry conditions, the site says, fire danger is elevated and “spring fire season starts early.” In addition, lawns brown early, gardens begin to wilt, surface water levels decline, and crop growth is stunted, per the site.

Among the towns limiting water use is Franklin, which announced several water conservation measures Thursday.

Those measures, the town’s Department of Public Works said in a separate statement, include limiting residents’ outdoor watering to one day per week, limiting sprinkler or automated system use to a resident’s trash day, and banning outdoor watering between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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“The declaration of a Level 1 drought has triggered the Town to enact Water Conservation restrictions as required per our Water Management Act permit through MassDEP,” the statement said.

The town said the conservation measures are required “to limit the daily demand on the water system in order to ensure water levels in the Charles River Water Shed basin remain at acceptable levels and that adequate water is available to meet the public health and safety needs of the Town. This measure is necessary to maintain the water levels in the tanks for fire protection and normal consumption.”

Flouting the measures, the statement said, may result in fines of up to $200.

“A total of 1-inch of water once per week from rain and watering promotes the healthiest lawns,” the statement said.

John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.