October 7, 2020
EXTREME DROUGHT CONDITIONS FOR SEACOAST AREA
As the graphics show, the Seacoast area of New Hampshire has experienced a very dry summer, especially in the months of August and September. Combined, only three inches of rainfall were recorded during the last two months. We are currently in a Stage 3 – Extreme Drought. Fortunately, the odd/even water restrictions that the City of Portsmouth implemented on September 10, 2020 are working. We are thankful that our customers are complying with our request that they only irrigate from midnight to 10:00 am on odd days and refrain from irrigation on even days. Early in the month our water system was experiencing demands as high as 5 million gallons a day. By the end of September that demand was down to 3.7 million gallons.
City water operations staff continue to participate in the New Hampshire Drought Management Team meetings, the most recent one was held on October 1, 2020. Here is their information: https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/dam/drought/documents/20201001-drought-team.pdf
The State Department of Environmental Services has implemented the State’s Drought Management Plan to coordinate the State Drought Management Team of state, federal, regional and municipal agencies, including the Portsmouth DPW Water Division. Ongoing actions include: assessing reservoir impacts and adjusting operations, working with drinking water systems statewide and ensuring the public is informed of the impacts and conservation measures that should be employed now to avoid serious problems later in the summer. The City of Portsmouth’s Water/Stormwater Division encourages residents to “Think Blue” and consider some of these water-saving measures you can practice at home, including potentially replacing inefficient toilets and washing machines: https://www.cityofportsmouth.com/publicworks/water/water-efficiency
In comparing the last seven years of precipitation, our precipitation since October 2019 is below normal but much better than it was at this time during the drought of 2016. The fall of 2019 and spring of 2020 was fairly wet and helped our surface and groundwater sources of supply to be near normal conditions when the summer began. Our water supply conditions in our system reflect this, with our groundwater supplies doing a bit better than they were at this time in 2016. However, the drought of 2016 ended in October when storms contributed over 7 inches of rainfall that year. Currently, there are no projections for similar storm events in the weather forecast, however, this is New England so anything could happen. If it remains dry our water supply staff are currently preparing contingency plans such as activating our Madbury Well #5 which was recently permitted. The loss of the Haven Well is still impacting our operations. That well is anticipated to be reactivated next summer when the Pease Grafton Road water treatment system is complete.