Jul 21 2016
Statewide Drought Watch In Effect; First Time In 14 Years
Ulster County's Ashokan Reservoir, seen here during a drought that stretched from late 2001 into 2002. The Ashokan, with a capacity of about 123 billion gallons, supplies about 40% of New York City’s daily drinking water needs in non-drought periods.
Photo credit: NYC.gov
July 21, 2016
Statewide Drought Watch In Effect; First Time In 14 Years

New York State needs more rain.

For the first time in 14 years, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a drought watch for all 62 counties.

Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state DEC, made the announcement last Friday.

“While most public water supplies are still generally normal throughout the state, below normal precipitation over the last 9 months, low stream flows, and reduced groundwater levels have prompted the need for this action,” Commissioner Seggos said.

A watch is the first of four levels of state drought advisories (“watch,” “warning,” “emergency” and “disaster”). The hardest hit areas in the state thus far are Western New York and the central Southern Tier, reports the Albany Times Union.

The DEC is not issuing any mandatory water use restrictions at the moment, but said that local public water suppliers “may require such measures.”

Water levels in the reservoirs that supply New York City’s drinking water are currently normal.

Precipitation Deficit

There is a “significant precipitation deficit…a lack of rain,” a staff member from the DEC’s Bureau of Water Resource Management told us. Rain shortfalls of 4 to 8 inches have been common over the last three months, the DEC said in a statement.

The dry weather dates back to October 1st — the start of the “water year” — and is beginning to significantly affect other water metrics, the agency said.

Stream flows and groundwater levels are “well below normal” throughout much of the state. Groundwater levels were seasonally worse in June compared to May and they are not expected to improve in the immediate future due to the existing shortfall, the DEC reported.

How You Can Help

The drought watch is expected to continue through the summer. The state has issued water conservation tips that “homeowners can take to voluntarily reduce their water usage”:

  • Fix dripping and leaking faucets and toilets. A faucet leaking 30 drops per minute wastes 54 gallons a month.
  • Raise your lawn mower cutting height. Longer grass needs less water.
  • Water lawns and gardens on alternate mornings instead of every day. Less frequent watering will develop grass with deeper roots, and early morning watering minimizes 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. A fixed watering schedule wastes water. Irrigate only when needed.
  • Sweep sidewalks and steps rather than hosing them. Eliminating a weekly 5-minute pavement hose-down could save between 625 and 2500 gallons of water per year depending on the flow rate.

More water saving tips can be found here.

More information on how drought can impact New York State can be seen here.

“We are encouraging residents throughout the state to conserve water whenever possible during the coming months,” Commissioner Seggos added.

Ulster County's Ashokan Reservoir, seen here during a drought that stretched from late 2001 into 2002. The Ashokan, with a capacity of about 123 billion gallons, supplies about 40% of New York City’s daily drinking water needs in non-drought periods.
Photo credit: NYC.gov