178 communities implement water restrictions as drought continues

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With the Commonwealth under a drought declaration since July 1, a large number of communities have implemented restrictions on water use.
 
Effective Sept. 1, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matt Beaton declared a drought warning in central, northeast and southeast Massachusetts, a drought watch for the Connecticut River valley and the Cape and islands, and a drought advisory for western Massachusetts.
 
A drought warning means that groundwater, stream flow and reservoir levels have been below normal for months. A drought watch is just one level below an emergency.
 
The Executive Office for Energy and Environmental affairs has recommended that municipalities with a drought warning ban all outdoor water use, and that those with a drought watch limit outdoor watering to handheld watering before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Those with a drought advisory are advised to limit outdoor watering to one day per week.
 
Many communities have implemented restrictions to conserve water during the drought. As of Sept. 12, 178 municipalities or water districts have implemented a water use restriction. Of these, 85 public water suppliers have restricted outdoor water use to one day or less, 75 have implemented mandatory restrictions, and 18 have voluntary water restrictions.
 
In August, many watershed and environmental advocacy groups signed onto a letter to Secretary Beaton expressing concerns about the drought and urging the administration to take proactive steps to combat the drought, including a public service campaign promoting water conservation, revisiting the Drought Management Plan framework to watch for early indications of drought, and issuance of new Water Management Act permits.
 
The Department of Environmental Protection offers technical assistance to communities to manage their water supplies and can help communities with requesting the declaration of a drought emergency. MassDEP can also aid communities that are in need of emergency connections to a water source.
 
On Sept. 7, the administration announced a drought emergency loan fund to provide up to $1 million in funds for farms and small businesses. Massachusetts has lost an estimated $14 million in crops due to the extreme dry conditions.
 
The state’s Drought Management Task Force was scheduled to meet on Oct. 5 to assess conditions.