Governor issues state's first ever drought watch

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced last week the issuance of the state’s first-ever drought watch and 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 Tolland counties. The Interagency Drought Workgroup is requesting residents, businesses and local governments in these counties to voluntarily reduce their water use by around 15%. 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%.

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 Connecticut Interagency Drought Workgroup's website.

Paired with historically high temperatures, precipitation in Connecticut ranged from 60% to 73% of normal conditions between June and September. Drinking water reservoirs have continued to decline, and average levels statewide were at less than 80% 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 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 Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. It will continue to monitor conditions across the region and will provide updates as needed.