NH Drought Management Team: Drought Update
On August 18, 2016, the New Hampshire Drought Management Team (DMT) held its second meeting of the summer at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES). State Climatologist, Mary Stampone, gave a briefing on the latest drought conditions, which indicated an increase in drought intensity across southeastern parts of the state. In accordance with the latest USGS Drought Monitor, portions of Rockingham County and Hillsborough County have risen to the extreme drought classification, the first time New Hampshire has received the extreme drought designation since the Drought Monitor’s inception in 2000. Moderate and severe drought conditions persist in the remaining southern portion of the state, while abnormally dry conditions continue through the central and northeast sections of the state. Also, on August 18, 2016, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center extended the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook forecast through the end of November. The forecast indicates that the drought will persist through this period.
George Hamilton of the UNH Cooperative Extension, and Bruce Cilley of the USDA, provided an update on farmers in the state. While farmers are being impacted by the drought, they are reportedly working extremely hard to maintain their crop yields and are harvesting plenty of fruits and vegetables. Mr. Hamilton stated “If there is ever an important time to support our local farmers, it is now. Visiting local farmers markets and local vegetable stands will help farmers get through this difficult season and succeed in future seasons.”
Drinking water supplies were also discussed during the meeting. Currently, 115 community water systems and three towns are implementing water restrictions and bans and many individuals are conserving water voluntarily. While the public has done a good job of adhering to voluntary water restrictions and bans, some public water suppliers, such as Portsmouth Water Works, are asking their communities to do more and are transitioning to mandatory water restrictions. NHDES is also asking the public to continue to conserve where they can and, in drought areas particularly, to refrain from using water outdoors accept for hand watering of vegetable gardens and newly planted growth. The priority continues to be on protecting water supplies now to avoid or delay potential water shortage emergencies in the future.
The DMT will likely meet again in mid-September.
Parallel to the work of the DMT, Governor Hassan coordinated with federal, state and local officials to assess how drought has impacted the agriculture industry and on August 5, 2016, requested a Secretarial Drought Disaster Designation from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Since then, Merrimack, Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties reached the D3, Extreme Drought designation, fast-tracking Governor Hassan’s request and automatically granting the request for the D3-designated and contiguous counties. See http://m1e.net/c?220286441-cUIQwCabSIEM2%40387398314-5erfYvPxm7WnY and http://m1e.net/c?220286441-UVcoJA5kMJccU%40387398315-pMXaCJ8aufQeY
For updates on drought conditions and outdoor water use restrictions, water efficiency tips, and drought guidance for municipalities, public water systems, and homeowners, visit www.des.nh.gov and scroll through the “A-Z List” to the “Drought Management Program.”
The DMT includes federal, state, municipal, environmental, recreational, business and industry officials, and is coordinated by NHDES. The DMT provides water users, municipalities and the public with information about drought conditions and impacts as well as recommended actions that can be taken to prepare for and respond to drought.
Agencies/organizations participating in the DMT:
City of Portsmouth, Eversource, Granite State Hydropower Association, Granite State Rural Water, Local Government Center, Manchester Water Works, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NH Association of Health Officers, NH Association of Regional Planning Commission, NH Business and Industry Association, NH Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, NH Department of Agriculture, NH Department of Environmental Services, NH Department of Fish and Game, NH Department of Health and Human Services, NH Department of Resources and Economic Development, NH Department of Safety, NH Farm Bureau, NH Governor’s Office, NH Health Officers Association, NH Lakes Management Advisory Committee, NH Municipal Association, NH Office of Energy and Planning, NH Public Utilities Commission, NH Rivers Management Advisory Committee, NH State Climatologist, NH State Geologist, NH Water Well Board, NH Water Works Association, Ski NH, UNH Cooperative Extension, United States Army Corps of Engineers, United States Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Rural Development