July 15, 2024 4:01 am
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Drought Conditions Cover 99 Percent of State, With Water Restrictions in 78 Communities

Credit: iStock

Amanda Gokee

Drought conditions have engulfed New Hampshire, with around 99 percent of the state experiencing some degree of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Conditions are worst in southern New Hampshire, with 14 percent of the state in severe drought along the Massachusetts border. Just north of that, another swath is in moderate drought, making up an additional 26 percent of the state. Most of the remainder of the state is abnormally dry.

The state’s forests, agriculture, and water availability are affected – and water quality of wells could be as well. As groundwater levels fall, the concentration of minerals such as arsenic, uranium, and manganese can increase. The Department of Environmental Services is encouraging homeowners to test the water quality of their wells.

“From what we’ve seen, the drought kind of started in the southeastern corner of the state and is working its way diagonally up and across as it’s worsening,” said Jeremy Delisle, a field specialist with the UNH Cooperative Extension who has been speaking with farmers impacted by the drought.

Crops that aren’t irrigated grow more slowly and not as much, which can result in smaller fruits and vegetables, according to Delisle. He said farmers are responding by managing their water and irrigation systems and schedules carefully to make the water go as far as possible. Running irrigation pumps takes extra time, labor, and fossil fuel, which is an additional expense.

“Temperatures in the last couple of weeks have exacerbated the issue,” Delisle said. Hay fields have been affected, as have field crops like pumpkins, sweet corn, and tree fruits. Local crops are still available in spite of these challenges, and Delisle said it’s important for consumers to support farmers by purchasing their produce.

The drought has also prompted 78 communities in the state to enact water restrictions. That number has risen since last week, when 65 communities had put restrictions in place.

The Department of Environmental Services recommends limiting watering to before 7 a.m. and after 8 p.m. for all areas of the state experiencing drought.

The drought has also made forest fires worse, causing them to burn more deeply than they typically would at this time of year, according to Steve Sherman, the chief of the Forest Protection Bureau at the New Hampshire Division of Forest and Lands. Fires are burning at a depth of one to two inches, which doesn’t usually happen until late August or September.

Both surface water and groundwater have been affected. Groundwater levels are low, and less surface water means that rivers and streams are running low. The Northern Merrimack and the Pemigewasset rivers are the only exceptions.

Temperatures are projected to be higher than normal and it’s likely the state will receive less rainfall than usual, conditions that could worsen the drought, according to the monthly temperature and precipitation outlooks.

This story was written by Amanda Gokee, a New Hampshire Bulletin reporter, where this story fi