CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – More regions of the state are now considered in either significant or critical drought conditions, according to the latest status reported by the state Wednesday.

Berkshire County is now ranked as significant drought along with the Island Regions. From August 1 to August 22, rainfall across the state was only between .5 inches to 1 inch, and precipitation levels for the month of August so far are trending below average. Streamflows are the most affected by the lack of rain, with low flows across the state.

“Rivers are dry. I’ve never seen anything like this in the last couple of years. What has happened to us, we need the water, we need the rain. I don’t know how we’re going to get it,” said Habibo Hussein of Springfield.

The risk of wildland fires increases each week the drought worsens. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has implemented a temporary ban on all open flames and charcoal fires within state park properties to avoid any fire risks. The ban is in effect until further notice. However, small propane grills will still be allowed at campgrounds and areas where grilling are permitted.

West Springfield Fire Lt. Tony Spear told 22News, “All across the state, there’s been a lot of fires that have been caused by the drought or not the drought itself but because of the dry conditions. So here in western Mass, I believe we are still in a critical drought area and those dry conditions are conducive for a fire to start quite rapidly.”

“The impact of the current drought conditions are being felt throughout the commonwealth, from damaging wildfires to dry riverbeds and wells,” said MEMA Acting Director Dawn Brantley. “The recent rains help but won’t end the drought so it is more important than ever to prevent wildfires and for residents to conserve water in our day-to-day activities.”

Since the start of this year’s fire season, there has been over 840 wildfires that have burned approximately 1,432 acres of land. Massachusetts residents are asked to use extreme caution when using grills and open flames and to make sure all open flames are properly extinguished.

Although we did receive that little bit of rain Tuesday, Lt. Spear says we are going to need alot more rain to make up for such a dry summer.

Recommendations for Regions in Level 3 – Critical Drought

Residents and Businesses:

  • Minimize overall water use.
  • Stop all non-essential outdoor watering.


Immediate Steps for Communities:

  • Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought; Level 3 restriction calls for a ban on all nonessential outdoor water use.
  • Provide timely information on the drought and on water conservation tips to local residents and businesses.
  • Enforce water use restrictions with increasingly stringent penalties.
  • Strongly discourage or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; filling of swimming pools.
  • Establish or enhance water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.

Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:

  • Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication.
  • Implement or establish drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.
  • Prepare to activate emergency inter-connections for water supply.
  • Develop or refine your local drought management plan using guidance outlined in the state Drought Management Plan.

“Under current drought conditions, it is critically important that all residents heed their water suppliers’ requests to cut back on nonessential water use,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “Cutting back on outdoor water use and following local conservation requirements will help sustain our water sources until precipitation rates can rebound.”

Recommendations for Regions in Level 2 – Significant Drought

Residents and Businesses:

  • Minimize overall water use.
  • Limit outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m.
  • Follow local water use restrictions, if more stringent.

Immediate Steps for Communities:

  • Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought; Level 2 restriction calls for limiting outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m. If local restrictions are more stringent, continue to keep them in place during the course of the drought.
  • Limit or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; filling of swimming pools.
  • Establish water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.

Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:

  • Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication.
  • Provide timely information to local residents and businesses.
  • Implement or establish drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.
  • Check emergency inter-connections for water supply.
  • Develop or refine your local drought management plan using guidance outlined in the state Drought Management Plan.

Current Water Use Restrictions:

The following cities and towns in western Massachusetts are under a mandatory water use restriction: (as of August 16)

  • West Springfield
  • Southwick
  • Easthampton
  • Northampton
  • Hadley
  • Ware
  • Shelburne
  • Greenfield
  • Orange
  • Williamstown
  • Adams
  • Cheshire
  • Dalton
  • Hinsdale

The following cities and towns are under a voluntary water use restriction:

  • Montague

“Massachusetts continues to experience drought conditions in all regions of the state, which is not only depleting public water supplies, but is also elevating the risk of wildland fires,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “It is critical that we all practice water conservation methods and adhere to local requirements to decrease the stress on our water systems and ensure essential needs, such as drinking water, habitats and fire suppression, are being met.”