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    State sets up $1m fund to help farms, businesses hit by drought

    The latest map from the US Drought Monitor: The area shown in red is suffering an extreme drought, and the dark orange region is under a severe drought.
    US Drought Monitor
    The latest map from the US Drought Monitor: The area shown in red is suffering an extreme drought, and the dark orange region is under a severe drought.

    Governor Charlie Baker announced Thursday the creation of a loan fund to help family farms and small businesses get through what officials have said is the state’s worst drought in decades.

    The fund, operated by Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp., will provide up to $1 million in “micro-loans” to affected businesses, Baker’s office said in a statement.

    “Like the emergency loan fund we launched following record snowstorms, this Drought Emergency Loan Fund will provide affordable working capital to small businesses grappling with the aftermath of extreme weather,” Baker said in the statement.

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    The loan announcement came as officials in Worcester and some surrounding communities, citing worsening conditions, said they would begin implementing new water-use restrictions, including on giving tap water to diners in restaurants and on outdoor watering.

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    The emergency fund will provide loans between $5,000 and $10,000, according to Larry Andrews, president of Massachusetts Growth Capital, who said the corporation will rely on local partners to determine which businesses are in most need of the aid.

    “Our team will provide prompt review of each application and work to help local farmers in need,” he said.

    When the corporation set up a similar fund for businesses affected by record snowfall two winters ago, it gave out $350,000 in loans and had no delinquencies or losses, Andrews said.

    US Drought Monitor
    The drought conditions across New England and the mid-Atlantic. The darker shades indicate more serious drought conditions, and the yellow areas indicate abnormally dry weather.

    He said he hopes the drought fund will have similar success.

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    Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton said the fund would help get some farmers through the year.

    “It’s not earth-shattering, but it can give this critical level of capital to folks to help them get by,” Beaton told the Globe. “That million dollars is probably going to go quick.”

    The Drought Management Task Force met Thursday morning to assess how much the state’s dry conditions have worsened since its last meeting in August.

    The task force recommended that Beaton change the drought ranking in the southeastern part of the state from the “watch” category to the “warning” category, and shift Cape Cod and the islands from “advisory” to “watch.”

    Beaton said through a spokesman that a decision would come soon, possibly as early as Friday, on whether to upgrade the state’s response.

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    “This is one of the more significant droughts that we’ve had,” Beaton said. “It’s sort of an unprecedented time and we haven’t seen anything like this in decades.”

    More than 170 towns and cities in the state have issued either voluntary or mandatory restrictions on water use, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

    The city of Worcester issued a Stage 3 Drought Emergency on Thursday after the reservoir system that serves that city, as well as Holden, Paxton, and parts of West Boylston, was 55.1 percent full as of Sept. 1, according to the city’s website, with the average for that date being 81.7 percent full.

    “The situation is getting very serious and we are now at the point of deciding which water uses have priority,” the city said on its website. “All outdoor water use is now banned. Water users are asked to find alternative water sources whenever possible.”

    Residents in those communities were banned Thursday from all outdoor watering, except for using a watering can to water plants by hand, and from using water to wash cars, clean driveways, decks, and sidewalks, or filling swimming pools, the city said.

    The low levels of water in the system, including the Quinapoxet and Pine Hill reservoirs, triggered the city’s Drought Contingency Management plan, resulting in the declaration, according to the website.

    Town-by-town water use restrictions
    Town Public Water Supplier First Restriction Implemented Restriction Level
    Abington Abington/Rockland Joint Water Works 8/15/2016 1 Day or Less
    Acton Water Supply District of Acton 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Adams Adams Fire District 8/15/2016 1 Day or Less
    Amherst Amherst Water Dept. 7/25/2016 1 Day or Less
    Andover Andover DPW 7/25/2016 Voluntary
    Ashburnham Ashburnham Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Ashland Howe Street Regional Water Plant 7/25/2016 1 Day or Less
    Athol Athol Water Dept. 6/16/2016 Mandatory
    Attleboro Attleboro Water Dept. 8/18/2016 1 Day or Less
    Auburn Auburn Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Avon Avon Water Dept. 6/1/2016 Mandatory
    Ayer Ayer Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Barnstable Hyannis Water Dept. 6/21/2016 Mandatory
    Barnstable Barnstable Fire District 8/17/2016 Voluntary
    Barre Barre Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Belchertown Belchertown Water District 6/9/2016 Voluntary
    Bellingham Bellingham Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Billerica Billerica Water Works 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Blackstone Blackstone Water Dept. 6/1/2016 Mandatory
    Bridgewater Bridgewater DPW 6/18/2016 1 Day or Less
    East Bridgewater East Bridgewater DPW 6/17/2016 Mandatory
    West Bridgewater West Bridgewater DPW 8/30/2016 Mandatory
    Bourne North Sagamore Water District 6/15/2016 Voluntary
    Bourne Buzzards Bay Water District 7/29/2016 Voluntary
    Boylston Boylston Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Braintree Tri-Town Water board 7/25/2016 1 Day or Less
    Brockton Brockton Water Dept. 8/30/2016 1 Day or Less
    Burlington Burlington Water Department 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Byfield Byfield Water District 5/18/2016 Mandatory
    Canton Canton Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Chatham Chatham Water District 6/15/2016 Voluntary
    Chelmsford Chelmsford Water District 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Cheshire Cheshire Water Dept. 7/19/2016 1 Day or Less
    Cohasset Cohasset Water Dept. 7/1/2016 Mandatory
    Cohasset Aquarion Water Co. 7/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Concord Concord Water Dept. 6/27/2016 1 Day or Less
    Cotuit Cotuit Water Department 8/15/2016 Voluntary
    North Chelmsford North Chelmsford Water District 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Danvers Danvers Water Division 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Dartmouth Dartmouth Water Division 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Dedham Dedham-Westwood Water District 6/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Devens MassDevelopment 5/16/2016 Mandatory
    Douglas Douglas Water and Sewer 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Dover Colonial Water Co. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Duxbury Duxbury Water Dept. 6/28/2016 Mandatory
    Easthampton Easthampton Water Dept. 7/7/2016 1 Day or Less
    Easton Easton Water Division 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Essex Essex Water Department 7/11/2016 1 Day or Less
    Fitchburg Fitchburg Water Dept. 5/19/2016 Mandatory
    Foxborough Foxborough Water and Sewer Comm. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Franklin Franklin Water Dept. 6/6/2016 1 Day or Less
    Gardner Gardner Water Dept. 5/30/2016 Mandatory
    Georgetown Georgetown Water Dept. 5/18/2016 Mandatory
    Gloucester Gloucester Water Dept. 8/22/2016 1 Day or Less
    Grafton South Grafton Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Grafton Grafton Water District 1/1/2016 Mandatory
    Greenfield Greenfield DPW 8/19/2016 Voluntary
    Groton West Groton Water Supply District 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Groton Groton Water Department 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Groveland Groveland Water and Sewer 8/17/2016 Mandatory
    Hadley Hadley DPW Water Division 7/27/2016 Mandatory
    Halifax Halifax Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Hamilton Hamilton Water Dept. 6/8/2016 1 Day or Less
    Hanover Hanover Water Dept. 8/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Hanson Hanson DPW 3/8/2016 1 Day or Less
    Harwich Harwick Water Dept. 7/7/2016 Voluntary
    Hatfield Hatfield Water Dept. 6/1/2016 Voluntary
    Haverhill Haverhill Water Dept. 7/28/2016 Voluntary
    Hingham Aquarion Water Co. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Holbrook Tri-Town Water board 7/25/2016 1 Day or Less
    Holden Holden DPW 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Holliston Holliston Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Hopedale Hopedale Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Hopkinton Hopkinton Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Hudson Hudson Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Hull Aquarion Water Co. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Ipswich Ipswich Water Dept. 6/20/2016 1 Day or Less
    Kingston Kingston Water Dept. 6/15/2016 Mandatory
    Leicester Cherry Valley and Rochdale Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Leicester Hillcrest Water District 8/1/2016 Mandatory
    Lincoln Lincoln Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Littleton Littleton Water Department 5/24/2016 Mandatory
    Lunenburg Lunenburg Water District 5/24/2016 Mandatory
    Lynn Lynn Water Dept. 8/24/2016 Voluntary
    Lynnfield Lynnfield Center Water District 1/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Manchester Manchester Water Dept. 7/18/2016 1 Day or Less
    Mansfield Mansfield Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Marion Marion Water Division 6/15/2016 Mandatory
    Marlborough Marlborough DPW Water Division 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Mattapoisett Mattapoisett Water Dept. 9/1/2016 Voluntary
    Maynard Maynard Dept. of Public Works 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Medfield Medfield Water Dept. 6/2/2016 1 Day or Less
    Medway Medway Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Merrimac Merrimac Water Depart. 7/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Middleborough Middleborough Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Middleton Middleton Water Dept. 8/9/2016 1 Day or Less
    Milford Milford Water Co. 5/18/2016 1 Day or Less
    Millbury Aquarion Water Co. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Millis Millis Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Natick Natick Water Division 6/22/2016 1 Day or Less
    Needham Needham Water Dept. 5/2/2016 1 Day or Less
    Newburyport Newburyport Water Works 7/21/2016 Voluntary
    Norfolk Norfolk Dept. of Public Works 1/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    N. Attleborough North Attleborough Water Division 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    North Reading North Reading DPW 6/13/2016 Mandatory
    Northampton Northampton Water Dept. 6/21/2016 Mandatory
    Northbridge Whitinsville Water Dist. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Norton Norton Water Department 1/1/2016 Mandatory
    Norwell Norwell Water Dept. 6/6/2016 1 Day or Less
    Oak Bluffs Oak Bluffs Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Orange Orange Water Dept. 6/15/2016 Mandatory
    Oxford Aquarion Water Co. 8/18/2016 Voluntary
    Paxton Paxton Water Dept. 7/22/2016 Mandatory
    Peabody Peabody Water Dept. 7/7/2016 Mandatory
    Pepperell Pepperell Water Division 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Plainville Plainville Water Dept. 7/18/2016 Mandatory
    Plymouth Plymouth Water Company 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Plymouth Plymouth DPW Water Division 7/12/2016 1 Day or Less
    Plymouth Pinehills Water Co. 8/6/2016 Mandatory
    Provincetown Provincetown Water Dept. 6/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Randolph Tri-Town Water board 7/25/2016 1 Day or Less
    Raynham North Raynham Water District 6/6/2016 Mandatory
    Raynham Raynham Center Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Reading Reading Water Dept. 1/1/2016 Mandatory
    Rockland Abington/Rockland Joint Water Works 8/15/2016 1 Day or Less
    Rockport Rockport Water Dept. 7/14/2016 1 Day or Less
    Rowley Rowley Water Department 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Rutland Rutland Water Dept. 6/6/2016 1 Day or Less
    Salisbury Salisbury Water Dept. 6/6/2016 Mandatory
    Scituate Scituate Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Seekonk Seekonk Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Sharon Sharon Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Shelburne Shelburne Falls Fire District 6/20/2016 Mandatory
    Shirley Shirley Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Shrewsbury Shrewsbury Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Southampton Southampton Water Dept. 6/27/2016 Voluntary
    Southbridge Southbridge Water Dept. 8/19/2016 1 Day or Less
    Southwick Southwick Water Dept. 6/15/2016 1 Day or Less
    Spencer Spencer Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Sterling Sterling Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Sturbridge Sturbridge Water Dept. 5/23/2016 Mandatory
    Sudbury Sudbury Water District 5/18/2016 1 Day or Less
    Sutton Wilkinsonville Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Swansea Swansea Water District 5/20/2016 Mandatory
    Taunton Taunton Water Dept. 5/21/2016 Mandatory
    Templeton Templeton Light and Water 6/17/2016 Mandatory
    Topsfield Topsfield Water Dept. 5/26/2016 1 Day or Less
    Townsend Townsend Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Upton Upton Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Uxbridge Uxbridge Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Walpole Walpole Water Dept. 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Ware Ware Water Dept. 5/20/2016 Mandatory
    Wareham Onset Fire and Water District 5/1/2016 Mandatory
    Warren Warren Fire District 6/6/2016 Mandatory
    Wayland Wayland Water Division 6/6/2016 1 Day or Less
    Webster Webster DPW 8/16/2016 Mandatory
    Wellesley Wellesley College 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Wellesley Wellesley DPW 8/1/2016 Voluntary
    Wenham Wenham Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Westborough Westborough Dept. of Public Works 5/31/2016 1 Day or Less
    Westfield Westfield Water Dept. 6/27/2016 Mandatory
    Westford Westford Water Dept. 6/3/2016 1 Day or Less
    Westminster Westminster DPW 8/9/2016 Voluntary
    Westwood Dedham-Westwood Water District 6/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    West Boylston West Boylston Water District 6/1/2016 Mandatory
    West Brookfield West Brookfield Water Dept. 5/30/2016 1 Day or Less
    West Newbury West Newbury Water Dept. 5/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    West Springfield West Springfield DPW 8/15/2016 Mandatory
    Weymouth Weymouth Water Dept. 7/18/2016 1 Day or Less
    Whitman Whitman Water Dept. 8/30/2016 1 Day or Less
    Williamstown Williamstown Water Dept. 7/1/2016 Mandatory
    Wilmington Wilmington Water Dept. 1/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    Winchendon Winchendon Water Dept. 8/24/2016 1 Day or Less
    Woburn Woburn DPW 8/15/2016 Mandatory
    Worcester Worcester DPW 1/11/2016 Mandatory
    Wrentham Wrentham Water Division 1/1/2016 1 Day or Less
    SOURCE: Mass. Energy and Environmental Affairs

    Globe correspondent Reenat Sinay contributed to this report and material from the State House News Service was included. Dylan McGuinness can be reached at dylan.mcguinness@globe.com.