CONWAY — The statewide drought wears on, with officials urging residents to practice conservation and to carefully use their wells, according to James Martin of the state Department of Environmental Services in Concord.
“It’s really important to get the word out that there is need to conserve due to the moderate or extreme drought depending on where you are in the state. People need to think of how they are using their water because once your well runs dry, it’s sort of too late,” said Martin Wednesday.
People, he said need to become knowledgeable about their water systems. “If they are on well water, they need to learn anything they can regarding how deep their well is and what kind of well they have. It’s valuable to have a better understanding of their water system,” said Martin.
Local weather watcher David Weathers, chair of the Conway Board of Selectmen and a home vegetable garden enthusiast, keeps home records concerning rain and snow fall.
“I’ve been keeping records since 1978 for both snow and rain. My well pump has been working hard,” said Weathers.
According to his records for his home on Route 153 in Conway on the way to Eaton, the total precipitation for June was 2 inches compared to 9.05 inches a year ago. For July, it was 2.5 inches compared to 9.05 inches a year ago. And 3.3 inches fell in August compared to 7.10 inches.
“I can’t believe there is such a difference between this and last summer. Last summer, granted, was wetter than normal but this year is drier than normal,” said Weathers, who said that his tomatoes generally make it into early October, with him usually covering them with a tarp but that they are gone as of a week ago due to the dryness.
Same for his cucumbers, which usually last into September but not this year. “I spoke with several people at the polls yesterday in Center Conway, and they told me the same thing, how dry things are. I spoke with the Richardsons (of Grandview Farm) of Conway and they said they are pumping out of the Saco (legally) for irrigation,” said Weathers, adding, “I’ve never seen the river as low as it is right now.”
The U.S. Geological Service’s Saco River gauge in Center Conway on Wednesday showed the river at a level of 2.16 feet and a flow of 140 cubic feet per second.
Derek Schroeter of the National Weather Service’s office in Gray, Maine, said that its unofficial North Conway station had recorded the fifth driest summer on record from June 1 through Aug. 31, with 8.55 inches of precipitation compared with the driest in record of 7.01 inches in summer 1980 and 17.5 inches for that three-month period in 2019.
June received 2.84 inches, the 11th driest June in the last 45 years, compared to the record driest of .57 inches in June 1979.
July saw 3.05 inches, the 14th driest on record, compared to the driest of July 2002 when 1.18 inches fell.
August saw 2.66 inches fall, the 11th driest, compared to the record low of 1.16 inches in August 1984.
So far this month, as of Sept. 8, .34 inches had fallen. The driest September on record was September 1978 when .64 inches fell.
Asked why it has been so dry, Schroeter said the region has not received any significant storms other than scattered thunder showers.
“A few weeks ago, (when Tropical Storm Isaias neared New England), the storm track went north over central New York state, west of here. We have not had an organized period of low pressure than can bring a steady day of rain for a day,” said Schroeter.
Martin on behalf of the state’s Drought Management Team issued the following press release Sept. 4:
With “severe drought” conditions across 28 percent of New Hampshire and “moderate drought” and “abnormally dry” conditions persisting across the rest of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Drought Management Team met Sept. 3 to discuss drought conditions and impacts in the state. State Climatologist Mary Stampone provided a briefing on the latest drought conditions and forecasts, which indicated that drought will likely improve but persist across southeastern New Hampshire through September. According to Stampone, the well-below- average precipitation received in August caused drought conditions to deteriorate. She also indicated that recent rainfall and the precipitation forecast for the next two weeks will not be enough to make up for the precipitation deficit for the year.
Staff from New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services updated the team on water resource impacts and management efforts. Lake levels continue to fall and are at or near levels experienced in the 2016 drought. 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 due to submerged obstructions that are now closer to the surface.
Flow conditions are spotty in the state’s rivers and streams as a result of small storms providing brief relief in some parts of the state, however most of the state is experiencing below normal flows. 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 conducted a release of water from dams in the Lamprey River watershed to provide relief to aquatic organisms in late June and in mid-August. Another release is planned for mid-September. These releases provide a significant, but brief, increase in Lamprey River flow to support stressed aquatic life, but have little effect on lake levels.
Of the 31 monitoring wells across the state, the majority are much lower than normal, with water levels that dropped between July and August in all except one well. 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, 148 community water systems have implemented restrictions.
NHDES urges the public to abide by water restrictions and be conservation-minded. To view the latest drought conditions, the presentation slides from Thursday’s meeting, and information related to saving water and managing residential wells during drought, go todes.nh.gov and use the “A-Z list” and scroll down to Drought Management.
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 Martin, NHDES public information officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 568-9777.