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Significant drought conditions announced along with steps public should take

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Boston — With precipitation, streamflow, and groundwater below normal as the state enters the spring season, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides declared a Level 2-Significant Drought in the Southeast Region of the Commonwealth, a Level 1-Mild Drought in the Western, CT River Valley, Central, Northeast, and Cape Cod Regions, and a Level 0-Normal Conditions in the Islands Region. Today’s declaration elevates the March 2021 declaration, which was a Level 1 in the Western Region of the Commonwealth, while all other regions of the state were in Normal Conditions.

“In most regions across the Commonwealth, dry conditions have set in again, and it is important that we all take water conservation steps now to lessen its potential impacts on our environment and water supplies, and to take extra precautions when using an open flame or cooking on a grill to prevent wildfires,” said EEA Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “The Baker-Polito Administration will continue to work closely with municipalities, local water suppliers and our federal partners to monitor and respond to the ongoing drought conditions.”

“Droughts can affect the environment, our economy, and even public safety. However, each of us can play a role in mitigating those impacts by reducing the amount of water we use both indoors and outside, and by being mindful of the increase risk of brush and wildland fires due to the dry conditions,” said Samantha Phillips, Director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). “Especially during this drought period, MEMA reminds the public to exercise caution when charcoal grills, matches, and other open flames during outdoor activities and to call 911 immediately if there is a fire to prevent the fire from spreading.”

Outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, a Level 2-Significant Drought warrants the convening of an inter-agency Mission Group to more closely coordinate on drought assessments, impacts and response within the government. A Level 1-Mild Drought warrants detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, and technical outreach and assistance to the affected municipalities. The declarations were the result of a recommendation issued by the state’s Drought Management Task Force, which is composed of state and federal officials, and other entities. The taskforce will continue to meet until water levels return to normal in the affected regions.

These drying conditions are likely to continue due to precipitation totals ranging from 1.5 inches to 3.0 inches below normal, with the greatest departure below normal along the North and South shores, lack of any snow cover, and the forecast indicating higher than normal temperatures and lower than normal precipitation.

As the Commonwealth enters into the growing season and more time is spent outdoors, state officials urge residents and businesses to reduce water use, select only native and drought resistant plants for new plantings, and limit outdoor watering to no more than one day a week for Level 1 regions, and handheld watering for Level 2 regions. Other water conservation tips include:

• Address leaks as soon as possible;
• Conduct water audits on larger buildings and businesses to identify leaks and potential water conservation opportunities;
• Minimize the size of where lawns are watered; and,
• Harvest rainwater for outdoor watering.

“Water conservation measures will aid in the reduction of water use and safeguard water for essential needs, such as drinking water, fire protection services, habitat recovery and environmental needs, and sustained water supplies. For more information, please visit EEA’s webpages on indoor and outdoor water use. While water supplies are currently doing fine, individuals are encouraged to also follow any additional watering requirements outlined by their communities’ Public Water Supplier. Additionally, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) water supply system is not currently experiencing drought conditions, as defined within its individual plan.”

For Region in Level 2 – Significant Drought

Residents and Businesses:

• Minimize overall water use;
• Limit outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5:00PM or before 9:00AM one day a week.

Immediate Steps for Communities:

• Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought.
• Limit or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; operation of non-recirculating fountains; filling of swimming pools, hot tubs, and backyard informal rinks.
• Implement drought or seasonal water rates.
• Establish water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.

Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:

• Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication;
• Provide timely information to local residents and businesses;
• Check emergency inter-connections for water supply; and
• Develop a local drought management plan.

“A drought reflects a period of time with below-normal precipitation. No one knows what will happen over the next few months, so now is the time to take steps to manage our water use as we move into the warmer weather,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “We urge all residents of the Commonwealth to be cognizant of our water resources and encourage you to follow water use requirements implemented by your public water supplier.”

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