Drought Conditions in New Hampshire Predicted To Persist Through the Fall
State Drought Management Team Convened To Discuss Current Conditions and Impacts
Concord, NH – With the entire state experiencing drought, on Thursday, October 1, 2020, the New Hampshire Drought Management Team met to discuss drought conditions and impacts in the state. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, currently 11% of the state is in “extreme drought (D3)”, 84% is in “severe drought (D2)” and 5% is in “moderate drought (D1).”
State Climatologist Mary Stampone provided an overview on the latest drought conditions and forecasts, which indicated that drought will likely persist across southeastern New Hampshire through the fall. According to Stampone, the well-below average precipitation received in September caused drought conditions to deteriorate. She also indicated that recent rainfall and the precipitation forecast for the next week will not be enough to make up for the substantial precipitation deficit for the year.
Leadership and staff from New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) updated the team on water resource impacts and management efforts. Lake levels continue to fall and some are below levels experienced in decades. While water supply reservoirs are low, they currently have enough water to meet demands. Boaters and swimmers should take caution on recreation lakes, as hazards have increased due to submerged obstructions that are now closer to the surface.
Flow conditions are very low in NH’s rivers and streams. Recent small storms provided only brief relief in some parts of the state, however most of the state is experiencing flows below the lowest 10% recorded for this time of year. Water management actions, such as reduced outdoor water use and switching to groundwater sources, continue to be implemented in the Lamprey and Souhegan River watersheds as a part of the Instream Flow Program. NHDES has conducted three releases of water from dams in the Lamprey River watershed to provide relief to aquatic organisms and is currently in the process of a final pulse release for the year. These releases provide a significant, but brief, increase in Lamprey River flow to support stressed aquatic life, but have little effect on lake levels.
For groundwater, of the 31 monitoring wells across the state, the majority are much lower than normal, with water levels that dropped between August and September in all wells. Large groundwater permit holders are being held to permit conditions related to reducing withdrawals during drought, and community water systems have been urged to implement outdoor water use restrictions. To date, 165 community systems and 7 municipalities have implemented restrictions.
The well drilling and pump industry is busy keeping up with water demands. Southern portions of the state are experiencing an increase in the installation of bedrock wells to replace existing bedrock wells that have little to no well yield; this is predominantly due to shallow bedrock fractures supplying less water to the well. The northern portions of the state are experiencing a high volume of dug wells going dry due to the water table dropping below the bottom of the well. There is an increased demand to replace dry shallow (<20 feet deep) dug wells with new bedrock wells. No matter where you are in the state, homeowners should expect to wait more than six weeks to get a new well drilled. For those in wait, conserve, space out water use, no outdoor watering, buy water for drinking and if necessary for dishwashing and flushing toilets. Homeowners can explore options to use auxiliary tanks or connect to neighbor’s water system in order to supply water to the home. NHDES does not encourage delivering bulk water to wells, but if you do, see our website for cautions.
NHDES urges the public to stop using water for non-essential purposes such as lawn watering, hosing down or power washing outdoor surfaces, or car washing. To view the latest drought conditions, the presentation slides, and the recording from Thursday's meeting, and information related to saving water and managing residential wells during drought, are available.
The NH Division of Forest and Lands gave a comprehensive update on the increasing forest fire danger and reviewed the Statewide restriction on smoking and outdoor fires. The Agriculture organizations reviewed the impact to crops statewide, and reminded all agencies that New Hampshire farmers are heavily impacted, but still have many products for sale and encouraged all to continue to support local farmers.
The Drought Management Team is led by NHDES and is comprised of key representatives across state government, academia, industry and other organizations. For more information, contact Jim Martin, NHDES Public Information Officer, at [email protected] or (603) 568-9777.