This summer has been hot and mostly dry with more hot weather forecast for the next week.
Governor Kathy Hochul has directed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to issue a drought watch for 21 New York counties mostly in Western New York and Long Island after consulting with the State Drought Management Task Force and federal partner agencies. New York State is encouraging residents in affected counties, particularly those dependent on private groundwater wells, to conserve water whenever possible during the coming weeks.
“Recent rains across the state were not enough to address the dry conditions that have persisted this year,” Governor Hochul said. “Local water restrictions and educating residents about how to help conserve our water resources will be crucial steps to help prevent a more severe shortage should conditions worsen.”
The counties under drought watch are Allegany, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Erie, Genessee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Onondaga, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Suffolk, Tompkins, Wyoming, and Yates. A watch is the first of four levels of State drought advisories, which are watch, warning, emergency, and disaster. No mandatory restrictions are in place under a drought watch.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Conserving water is important all year long, but particularly during extended dry periods like we are experiencing now. DEC will continue to monitor water conditions as the summer continues and work with our partners to help address the short-term water issues leading to this watch and the longer-term impacts of climate change on our everyday lives.”
While few public water supply challenges have been reported due to dry conditions, below-normal precipitation during the last three months, low streamflows, and low groundwater levels prompted the need for action to ensure adequate public water supplies. Local public water suppliers are urged to assess the current situation, promote voluntary conservation, and take appropriate actions to manage risk.
The drought watch is triggered by the State Drought Index, which reflects precipitation levels, reservoir/lake levels, and stream flow and groundwater levels in the nine drought regions of the state. Each of these indicators is assigned a weighted value based on its significance to various uses in a region. The State Drought Index is attuned to the specific attributes of New York and may differ moderately from some national technical drought assessments.
DEC and U.S. Geological Survey are partners in evaluating hydrologic conditions across New York State. Observed precipitation has been less than normal with shortfalls of two to six inches common over the last 90 days. The dry weather began in the spring and is beginning to significantly affect other metrics. Stream flows and groundwater levels are well below normal throughout much of the affected regions. Groundwater levels have been declining over the past few months and they are not expected to improve in the immediate future due to the existing precipitation deficit.
The National Weather Service outlook for the remainder of the summer predicts above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation. By voluntarily reducing water usage, and being extra careful with fire and outdoor flames, New Yorkers can help conserve our natural resources during these dry days of summer.
To protect water resources, homeowners are encouraged to voluntarily reduce outdoor water use and follow these tips:
- Water lawns only when necessary, choose watering methods that avoid waste, and water in the early morning to reduce evaporation and maximize soil hydration;
- Reuse water collected in rain barrels, dehumidifiers, or air conditioners to water plants;
- Raise lawn mower cutting heights. Longer grass is healthier with stronger roots and needs less water;
- Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks; and
- Fix leaking pipes, hoses, and faucets.