Drought gets worse locally
DES: Some rain this week ‘means nothing’
CONCORD – Calling the ongoing drought "a very slow-moving natural disaster," the state Department of Environmental Services is asking residents and businesses to stop all outside watering and to take other actions to reduce their water use.
According to the DES, southern New Hampshire has received about 50 percent of its normal rainfall over the last six months, and streamflow and groundwater levels are at historic low levels.
Unfortunately, this is the time of the year when people like to put in new plantings and seed their lawns.
"That is not a good idea," DES spokesman Jim Martin said Tuesday, because of the heavy water use they entail.
Martin said, "The rain this week has done nothing" to replenish the groundwater, because most of the water is being absorbed by surface vegetation or is flowing into rivers and streams.
The state has no authority to issue watering bans, he said, but municipalities do have that authority.
Milford, where many homes and businesses are connected to the municipal water supply, has had a mandatory odd-even ban on outdoor watering since early August.
Milford water commissioners met this week and made no decision on widening the ban to include all outdoor watering, Chairman Robert Courage said Tuesday, but they will meet again next week to discuss it.
"If Pennichuck puts a ban on outside watering, we are going to have to do it," he said.
Pennichuck Water Works is supplying Milford with about half of its water in order to save the supply in Milford’s town wells.
"We’re monitoring the wells very closely," said Courage, who said demand has receded a bit because many people seem to have given up watering.
Selectmen, who have the authority to restrict outdoor water use, are expected to meet with water commissioners on Monday, Sept. 26.
Some New Hampshire residents who have private wells are experiencing a loss of water, and "more widespread shortages are imminent if rainfall does not replenish lakes, streams and groundwater supplies before winter weather sets in," according to the DES website.
"Our water resources will probably not be substantially refilled until after the snowmelt during the spring of 2017."
Every day, Martin said, people are experiencing the loss of their wells. He said his agency received 11 phone calls last week from people whose wells are running dry.
The drought was caused by lack of rain over the last two years and the lack of snow last winter, affecting southern New Hampshire, Massachusetts, coastal Maine and other parts of the Northeast.
According to the DES, the average indoor water use per capita in New Hampshire is 63 gallons a day. In the summer, water use increases to 93 gallons per capita per day because of outdoor water use, mostly for lawn watering.