It’s official: New York State is under a drought watch.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation issued the watch — its first since 2002 — on Friday.
Contributing factors include below-normal precipitation, low stream flows and reduced groundwater levels across New York.
“We are encouraging residents throughout the state to conserve water whenever possible during the coming months,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in a press release, adding that most public water supplies are still at normal levels.
A watch is the first of four levels of state drought advisories. The first level is followed by “warning,” “emergency” and “disaster.”
Environmental Conservation officials made the drought decision after consulting the state Drought Management Task Force and federal partners. The agency said observed precipitation over the past 90 days has been less than normal, with shortfalls of 4 to 8 inches common. According to the DEC, the dry weather dates to Oct. 1 of last year.
Recent thunderstorms in the Capital Region have cooled off hot days, but have not provided that much rainfall.
“Every little bit helps, but those storms that we’ve had have been isolated in nature; it hasn’t been a widespread rain,” said Brian Montgomery, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. “Some areas have benefitted, but not widespread enough.
“I know in parts of the Catskills, last week we had some heavier rainfall,” Montgomery added. “A couple of our spotters reported over 5 inches of rain. . . . In a normal year, that would have resulted in significant flash flooding. But this year, we’ve been fairly dry. Most of the area has been dry.”
Help will begin with an extended rain.
“A nice, steady rain would be very beneficial,” Montgomery said. “It would be nice to get a nice, general rainfall which would help alleviate the drought conditions.”
Some local communities have always asked residents to water lawns and gardens on an alternating day schedule.
“Every year there’s a standard irrigation, odd-even type thing, it’s always there,” said Richard Pollock, superintendent of water, sewer and engineering for the town of Niskayuna. “It’s a matter of whether or not we’re advertising or enforcing. We have not done so yet this year and we haven’t had issues with our storage tanks being emptied out or not being able to refill.”
In Rotterdam, water supplies are sufficient.
“We have our water restrictions out annually during this time of the year and most people do abide by those water restrictions,” said Supervisor Steven Tommasone. “The water storage capacity we have in the town at this point has been adequate, but as the town continues to grow we will need more storage for our community.”
Tips from DEC
Homeowners can take steps to save water. Here are some tips from the DEC:
• Fix dripping and leaking faucets and toilets. A faucet leaking 30 drops per minute wastes 54 gallons a month.
• Raise the cutting heights on lawn mowers; longer grass needs less water.
• In communities that allow watering, water lawns and gardens on alternate mornings instead of every day. Less frequent watering will develop grass with deeper roots, and early morning watering will minimize evaporation.
• When using automatic lawn-watering systems, override the system in wet weather or use a rain gauge to control when and how much water to use. Irrigate only when needed.
• Sweep sidewalks and steps rather than hosing them. Elimination of a weekly five-minute pavement hose-down could save between 625 and 2,500 gallons of water per year, depending on flow rates.
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/wilkin.
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