HARTFORD, CT — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state officials are asking Connecticut residents to take the lack of rain seriously, saying one of the best ways to combat drought conditions is taking shorter showers, shutting off water while brushing teeth, and doing fewer loads of laundry.
State officials held a press conference at the rain-starved Shuttle Meadow Reservoir in New Britain last week to try and hammer home the seriousness of the state’s drought conditions.
At that press conference, Malloy said that in response to the decision made by the Connecticut Interagency Drought Workgroup to issue the state’s first-ever Drought Watch, he is advising residents to be mindful of their water consumption and to limit unnecessary water usage when possible.
“After three years of precipitation shortfalls, we are moving to a Drought Watch and it would be extremely helpful if residents could be mindful of their water consumption and take sensible steps to help stretch our water supply,” Malloy said.
The Drought Watch applies to counties in western and central Connecticut, including Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, and Torrington counties.
The Interagency Drought Workgroup is asking residents, businesses, and local governments in these counties to voluntarily reduce their water use by around 15 percent.
The previously announced Drought Advisory that went into effect statewide in June will remain for New London and Windham counties, where residents, businesses, and local governments are asked to reduce usage by around 10 percent.
Malloy said: “We’ve just had the warmest summer in history and that has followed an extremely dry winter.
“We can’t control the weather,” the governor continued, “but we can control our usage of water.”
Robert Klee, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), said: “This drought is at a level that we haven’t seen in quite sometime.”
Klee said the “dryness” that the drought conditions have left behind has left state land particularly vulnerable to fires.
“We’ve had 523 acres burn and 237 fires this year,” said Klee. “That is well above our rolling five-year average.”
Klee added the conditions the drought has left are those that the state is “likely to be experiencing for many years going forward due to climate change.”
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino echoed Malloy’s words — that the best way to combat the drought conditions is by changing personal habits.
“This drought is serious,’’ Pino said. “Doing something as simple as turning off your shower while soaping can have a big impact.”
The governor has directed the Connecticut Department of Administrative Services to review and implement areas where water usage among state government facilities can be reduced when possible.
Unlike a Storm Watch that is issued when bad weather is possible, a Drought Watch means that the state is already experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions.
A decision to issue a Drought Watch is based on an assessment of indicator data monitored by state and federal agencies, including precipitation, stream flows, groundwater levels, reservoirs status, soil moisture, vegetation, and fire danger conditions. This data is available to the public on the Interagency Drought Workgroup’s website.
Paired with historically warm temperatures, precipitation in Connecticut ranged from 60 percent to 73 percent of normal conditions between June and September. Drinking water reservoirs have continued to decline, and average levels statewide were at less than 80 percent of normal as of the end of September, with some reservoirs less than half full.
Residents and businesses served by public water suppliers are urged to follow any advice or requests from their supplier and municipalities, as conditions will vary across the state. Residents and businesses supplied by groundwater wells should be aware of any local ordinances in place regarding water usage restrictions, and should conserve water to reduce the potential stress on their wells, neighboring wells, and on the environment.
To date, 20 water companies have requested voluntary conservation or imposed mandatory restrictions. A continually updated list of these water companies is available on the Department of Public Health’s website.
While this is the state’s first Drought Watch, lower-level Drought Advisories were previously declared in 2002, 2007, 2010, and earlier this year. A Drought Watch is the second of four stages of drought defined in the Connecticut Drought Preparedness and Response Plan.
The Connecticut Interagency Drought Workgroup consists of state officials from the Department of Public Health, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture, Office of Policy and Management, and the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. It will continue to monitor conditions across the region and will provide updates as needed.