SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Connecticut River Valley region has been declared as a Level-3 Critical Drought, according to Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Beth Card. The region consists of Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin County in western Massachusetts.

The state is experiencing decreasing water levels in some reservoirs, streambeds, ponds, and rivers. The current drought conditions are also raising awareness of the risk of fires. Residents are asked to exercise caution when working with open flames and to make sure all campfires are completely put out.

“With the majority of the state now experiencing a Level-3-Critical Drought, it is incredibly important that we all practice water conservation and adhere to local requirements and recommendations in order avoid over stressing our water resources,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “Efforts to minimize water usage now will help our water systems to rebound more quickly, and ensure that essential public health, safety and environmental needs continue to be met.”

“The continued dry, hot weather has increased drought-related hazards for much of Massachusetts including the risk for fires,” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Acting Director Dawn Brantley. “We need the public to be especially careful during this time by adhering to local water use restrictions, and exercising caution around any outdoor activities that increase the risk of brush and forest fires such as barbecues, campfires, and safe disposal of smoking materials.”

Communities in the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) water supply system are not heavily affected by the drought conditions yet, according to the state. In western Massachusetts, this includes South Hadley, Chicopee and Wilbraham.

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.”

Current Water Use Restrictions:

Credit: MassDEP

The following cities and towns in western Massachusetts are under a mandatory water use restriction:

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

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

  • Montague