After a sweltering, dry summer, and a slowly improving fall, the drought status in parts of Massachusetts has worsened after below-normal rainfall in November, state officials said.
Northeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod are now facing “significant drought” conditions after experiencing mild drought in November, officials said.
“It’s not obvious that we’re in a drought for most people and in winter, it becomes less so,” said Vandana Rao, EEA director of water policy. “Although we are experiencing cold weather and some days which are wetter than others, it still is, in some regions, less than what it normally is.”
Today, @EEASecretary declared the Northeast & Cape Cod Regions have been downgraded, to higher drought conditions, while the rest of the state will remain at their drought levels. For the current drought status & tips on how to #ConserveMAWater, visit https://t.co/dM1e4cNlrx pic.twitter.com/HJhavODbZz— MAEnergy Environment (@MassEEA) December 12, 2022
Parts of Massachusetts have historically been “colder and wetter” than this year, authorities said. Rainfall in Massachusetts has ranged from 0 to 3 inches below normal, with the northeastern area’s rainfall ranging 2 to 3 inches below normal, officials said.
From Nov. 12 to Monday, 3 to 4 inches of rain fell in Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk counties, while Barnstable County received 5 to 7 inches. The rest of the state received 4 to 5 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
Although rainfall is sparse, precipitation makes up just a small portion of the overall drought issue, according to NWS Boston meteorologist Bill Simpson.
“It’s groundwater availability, water usage, a lot of different factors,” Simpson said.
The state’s executive office of energy and environmental affairs said it is continuing to stress the importance of conserving water by fixing leaks, considering water-use habits, and replacing older fixtures and appliances.
“Any kind of water conservation — shorter showers, making sure that your dishwasher and your washing machine are turned on only when there’s a full load, and any other similar types of water use that folks are doing internally so that they’re able to be as efficient as possible, particularly in the regions where we’re seeing a [’Significant Drought’ status],’” Rao said.
The height of this year’s drought came in early August, when four regions — the Connecticut River Valley, Central, Northeast, and Southeast regions — faced “critical drought” conditions.
The Cape Cod region experienced “significant drought,” and the Western and Islands areas experienced mild drought conditions.
With continued low precipitation and high temperatures, @EEASecretary has declared a Level 3-Critical Drought across four MA regions & elevated the Cape Cod Region to a Level 2-Significant Drought. For more info on water conservation & the drought status: https://t.co/JEXmQMp72b pic.twitter.com/J89VxJi8ly— MAEnergy Environment (@MassEEA) August 9, 2022
With the Northeast and Cape Cod regions returning to “significant drought” status, state officials plan to bring together a committee to complete assessments and reach out to affected cities and towns, according to the Mass. Drought Management Plan. Some communities still have watering restrictions in place.