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State Urges Well Water Conservation As Drought Develops In N.H.'s Southern Tier

Jessica Hunt

Southern New Hampshire looks to be headed for a drought this summer, after more than a month without any significant rainfall following a low-snow winter.

The state got about half an inch of rain on May 15. 

Since then, less than an inch of rain total has fallen in Southern New Hampshire – as much as 75% less than normal.

It makes the past month the driest on record for what’s normally the rainiest part of the year in this area, according to the National Weather Service. This also comes after a winter with a low snowpack, which otherwise would recharge water supplies for summer.

The state Department of Environmental Services says this means drought conditions are likely developing throughout the southern tier and in the southern part of the Lakes Region – even as people stuck at home in the pandemic use more water than usual.

“[S]tream flows throughout the state are very low and if these weather trends continue, groundwater levels and water supply wells throughout the state will soon begin to be adversely impacted,” says water division director Thomas O’Donovan in a statement.

Credit Elizabeth Burakowski
University of New Hampshire climate researcher Elizabeth Burakowski says her lawn in Durham is already turning brown and dry from the recent lack of rain -- seen here on June 18.

DES says towns and water companies could soon begin imposing outdoor water use restrictions. The state says residents with home water wells should start conserving now by curtailing outdoor water use and staggering their well use overall to let it replenish.  

“Also, finances for well improvements or to drill a new well may be very limited,” DES says in a press release, “therefore, during a drought, it is important to curb water use early.”

New Hampshire last had a drought in late summer 2018 and another, more severe one in 2016. All of the state is currently experiencing “abnormally dry” conditions, the precursor to drought in the national drought monitoring system.

Overall, scientists say climate change is making the Granite State and Northeast wetter – but it may also lead to more sporadic heavy bouts of precipitation, which does less to replenish groundwater than slow and steady rainfall.

The state is also becoming hotter, with longer summers, shorter shoulder seasons and milder, more volatile winters, especially in the southern tier.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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