New Hampshire Declares ‘Severe Drought;’ Seeks Conservation

Residents in southern New Hampshire, including Plaistow and Sandown, are being urged by state environmental officials to conserve water use during what is now called a “severe drought.”

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) is calling for those residents to restrict outdoor water use, “except for hand watering of vegetable gardens until precipitation mitigates drought conditions.”  Local private well owners and public water system users are among those impacted. In a recent report to the New Hampshire Drought Management Team, State Climatologist Mary Stampone indicated that relief was not in the near future and drought conditions will likely persist into the fall, according to a statement Wednesday.

“A combination of a below average snowpack in the spring, little precipitation to recharge the groundwater, an increase of evapotranspiration in the summer and the inability of New Hampshire watersheds to store large volumes of water due to their geology has landed the northern half of the state in abnormally dry conditions and the southern half in severe drought,” a DES spokesperson said. “Saving water for essential uses, such as drinking, cooking and cleaning of clothes and dishes and limiting non-essential uses such as watering of lawns is the most effective way to sustain water supplies until enough rain is received to replenish water sources.”

In Plaistow, Atkinson and Sandown, community water systems, operated by either Hampstead Area Water Company (HAWC) or Pennichuck East Utility Company (PEU), are under “restriction,” as of July 28, according to DES. However, outdoor water bans are in place within HAWC’s “Walnut Ridge/Hampstead Core” service area in Atkinson and within PEU’s “Sweet Hill” service area in Plaistow.

The last significant drought in New Hampshire was between 2001 and 2003, according to DES.

“Since then, many changes have been made to help mitigate drought conditions. Water suppliers have invested in backup supplies, including emergency interconnections with other water suppliers, and adopted water restrictions; the Water Conservation Program at DES was created; and legislation was enacted to allow municipalities to quickly implement residential lawn watering bans on public and private supplies.”