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Mass. now in long-term drought — with no end in sight

The grass at a Worcester park was feeling the effects of the drought last month. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The drought in Massachusetts is only getting worse, forecasters said.

Experts Tuesday declared the recent, lengthy pattern of dry weather a “long-term drought,” which means it is unlikely to resolve soon, National Weather Service meteorologist Lenore Correia said.

The state has a 5.23-inch deficit between the rain it usually receives in the period beginning June 1 and the rain that fell in the comparable span this year, Correia said.

Though a wet system skimmed the region this week, it offered little relief. And very little rain is expected in the next week.

“There’s a chance for some precipitation Saturday, but it won’t be nearly enough to make up for the deficit,” Correia said.


The US Drought Monitor map, which is produced by a government-university collaboration, showed increasingly dry conditions across the state.

The area under “severe drought” now includes most of Central Massachusetts and portions of Plymouth and Bristol counties, where there was previously a moderate drought, Correia said.

On Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and the South Shore, a moderate drought warning has replaced the abnormally dry designation.

There are five levels in the monitor’s classifications. They are, from the lowest to the highest level: abnormally dry, moderate drought, severe drought, extreme drought, and exceptional drought.

More than 60 percent of the state is now suffering a severe drought, Correia said. The westernmost part is the only area that is not experiencing drought conditions. The Drought Monitor experts estimate that the drought is affecting more than 6.4 million state residents — or about 95 percent of the population.

In July, the state separately issued a drought watch for most of Northeastern and Central Massachusetts, along with a drought advisory in the Southeastern and Connecticut River regions. The state’s declarations can require local communities to take steps to manage water use.

Peter Lorenz, a spokesman for Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton, said the Drought Management Task Force meets Aug. 11, and members will discuss whether to recommend changes to the state drought status.

The National Weather Service said the dry weather has had a significant impact on the water levels of the state’s rivers and streams, one of the criteria the task force considers in their meetings.


A map posted on the service’s Twitter account indicates many water streams are significantly below normal. More than five of the measurements set record-lows.

Over 140 communities have issued restrictions that limit or altogether ban the use of water outdoors, said Ed Coletta, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.

Coletta said that tally was between 100 and 110 at its peak last summer, so this year continues to be concerningly dry.

Ronit Goldstein, a spokeswoman for Aquarion Water Company, which manages the water supply for Hingham, Hull, and parts of Cohasset, said the company originally issued restrictions on May 1. Aquarion recently tightened those restrictions to ban outdoor uses except handheld watering.

“We’re all waiting for the weather to change,” said Steve Olson, Aquarion’s director of operations for Massachusetts.

Olson and Goldstein emphasized that the company’s water supply, while lower than normal, is sufficient to meet their clients’ demand.

Concord officials passed a similar measure after they shut down a 5-million gallon tank from its system, creating a significant shortage in that community. Officials isolated the tank after an employee discovered the lock to the tank’s access hatch was damaged.

Water tests and physical assessments have indicated that the water was not contaminated, and the tank should begin going back online Friday.

While many suburban communities continue to enforce tighter restrictions, Bostonians and MetroWest residents need not worry, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority spokeswoman Ria Covenry said.


The city gets most of its water from the Quabbin Reservoir, a 412-billion gallon body of water in Central Massachusetts that could sustain its service area for six years without replenishment, Covenry said.

On Tuesday, a Globe report chronicled the financial and personal strains the drought has imposed on the state’s farmers. The exceedingly dry weather threatens their crop yields and exacerbates their work.

The US Drought Monitor map is produced weekly by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, the US Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to its website.

It’s not affiliated with the National Weather Service, a NOAA agency, although they work together, Correia said.

Dylan McGuinness can be reached at dylan.mcguinness@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DylMcGuinness.