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Drier and drier: Severe drought area in Massachusetts expands

The water was disappearing recently at the Hoppin Hill Reservoir in North Attleborough.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The rain has been a no-show and the parching persists. The area of Massachusetts experiencing severe drought conditions has expanded south from the northeastern corner of the state, according to the latest report from the US Drought Monitor.

The monitor released the data Thursday on its website, which said the readings were valid as of Tuesday morning.

Areas experiencing severe drought now include all of Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, and Norfolk counties as well as parts of Worcester, Bristol, and Plymouth counties.

The drought has expandedUS Drought Monitor

The rest of the state was under moderate drought conditions, except for the westernmost part of Berkshire County, which was just abnormally dry, the monitor says.


Under severe drought conditions, crops are impacted in both yield and fruit size, hay prices spike, outdoor burn warnings are issued, air quality is poor, trees are brittle and susceptible to insects, water quality is poor, and outdoor water restrictions are implemented, according to the monitor.

In a moderate drought, irrigation use increases; hay and grain yields are lower than normal; honey production declines; wildfires and groundfires increase; trees, landscaping, and fish are stressed; voluntary water conservation is requested; and reservoir and lake levels are below normal capacity, the monitor says.

In a weekly summary issued Thursday, the monitor noted the generally hot weather in the Northeast and drier weather in eastern coastal areas.

“This led to growing precipitation deficits, reductions in streamflow, poor soil moisture, and water shortages in some areas. Severe drought expanded in coverage in eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and eastern Connecticut. Widespread calls for water conservation occurred from New England to the Hudson Valley and New Jersey, and hay fields struggled in Rhode Island,” the summary said.

The US Drought Monitor is produced jointly by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Agriculture.


The federal drought assessments are not official declarations but are offered as guidance, according to state officials.

State officials say they use more detailed information to issue drought declarations that come with specific actions people should take.

After recommendations by the state’s Drought Management Task Force, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card last Thursday declared a Level 3-Critical Drought in the Northeast and Central Regions of the state. The Southeast, and Connecticut River Valley Regions remained at a Level 2-Significant Drought, and the Cape Cod Region will join the Islands and Western Regions at Level 1-Mild Drought.

The officials urged people to conserve water in the drought areas, recommending different steps depending on the drought level.

Massachusetts drought declarationsDrought Management Task Force

As of Monday, more than 100 cities and towns throughout the state had imposed mandatory restrictions on outdoor water use, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. Many of those restrictions were put in place during the spring and early summer.

Ria Convery, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, which provides water to Boston and dozens of other communities, said, “Right now, our reservoirs are still in the normal operating range for this time of year,” but the authority is “urging our customers to conserve water wherever they can.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report. Travis Andersen and Shannon Larson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Martin Finucane can be reached at