October was New Hampshire's wettest month since April, but the state's drought is still extreme in and around Strafford County.
All of the rest of the state remains in moderate drought. At a virtual multi-agency meeting Thursday, state officials said there hasn’t been enough rain recently to alleviate this.
State drinking and groundwater bureau chief Brandon Kernen said residents should refrain from outdoor water use in the mild weather this weekend. More than 400,000 people in New Hampshire are still under some form of outdoor water use restriction.
Kernen said private well users should remain conservative heading into winter, including by insulating pipes that are prone to freezing instead of letting them run continuously.
“If they do that, they may run out of water and then they’ll have frozen pipes,” he said. “It’s really important just to take that extra effort to winterize and not just run your water.”
Officials are preparing for the possibility of a multi-year drought if the ground is still very dry when winter sets in. New Hampshire has only had a few of those in modern history, but the effects of climate change could make drought conditions more common.
It means the strain on wells, especially in the Southeastern counties, could stretch into next year or beyond.
Kernen said more than 100 people have now applied to the state’s first-ever emergency drought aid program, offering bottled water and financial help to low-income households with dry wells. Interested families can fill out this survey for more information.
Kernen said large well drilling companies have reported impacts to more than 1,000 residential wells, which are the drinking water source for as much as half of the state.
State forest rangers said there’s also a risk of spring wildfires if the state doesn’t see enough snow this winter to dampen the dry ground and underbrush.
Agricultural officials said the drought has reduced the state’s hay crop by as much as 75%, and urged shoppers to buy local food this winter to support struggling farmers.