Despite rain, drought persists | Ipswich Local News

Drought conditions lessened in some parts but there still wasn’t enough rain (UNL Drought Monitor maps)

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Long-rain forecast says hotter and drier than normal

NORTH SHORE — Despite the downpours, the drought persists.

Although the weekend deluges helped, most of Massachusetts is still too dry, according to both the state and the United States Drought Monitor.

This year, the Ipswich River’s flow rate is below where it was during the historic drought of 2016, according to the Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA).

“We had a dry winter with little snowmelt to recharge the watershed, followed by below-average spring rain levels,” said Wayne Castonguay, IRWA’s executive director.

Despite recent rain, the river is still at historic lows, according to United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) data. The July 2 flow rate in the river is 21.85% of the historical mean daily measurements, it said.

The Parker River, as measured in Byfield, is also faring badly, the USGA said. Its July 2 flow rate was 22.41% of the historic mean measured for that date.

USGS data shows that river flows start to fall in mid-June and continue dropping until mid-September.

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“Now that we’re in summer and seeing hot and dry days ahead, the actions
we each take on how we use water play a huge role in how bleak things get,” Castonguay said in his statement.

He said 350,000 people and businesses rely on the river, but residents don’t help by watering their lawns.

Keeping grass green wastes an average of 1,900 gallons of water a week, IRWA said, adding, “That’s like running your shower for 12 hours!”

In most communities, water consumption nearly doubles from winter to summer, it said. “Add to that a boom in development across the North Shore which is not only increasing water demand, but also the number of water-thirsty grass lawns being established.”

When towns impose water restrictions, automatic lawn sprinklers are one of the first activities banned.

State drought

Last week, the state declared most of Massachusetts to be in a “significant drought.”

That is when conditions “warrant detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, emphasis on water conservation, [and] more stringent watering restrictions.”

Some of the state recommendations to municipalities include:

  • Limit or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; operation of non-recirculating fountains; filling of swimming pools, hot tubs, and backyard informal rinks.
  • Implement drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.
  • Establish water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.

Meanwhile, a National Weather Service long-range prediction said July is likely to be drier than normal.

To make matters worse, there is a moderate risk of excessive heat for much of the country in July.

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