Massachusetts is wicked dry: Severe drought sparking water bans, record low rivers, farming impacts

Rick Sobey, Boston Herald on

Published in Weather News

BOSTON — Lawns, crops and rivers across the Bay State are all super thirsty this summer as drought conditions continue to worsen with no end in sight.

The severe and moderate drought conditions have triggered water bans in a growing number of communities. Local rivers are at record lows because of the lack of rain, and farmers are facing a very difficult growing season.

“I’m really shocked by how low some of the stream flows are, and how low water tables are,” David Boutt, a professor in the UMass Amherst Department of Geosciences, told The Boston Herald this week. “It’s shocking how quickly the stream levels dropped off.”

The very low rivers, including the Ipswich River in the northeastern part of the state, have led officials to ban outdoor water use in many communities.

The Ipswich River is at a record low for this time of year, according to Ryan O’Donnell, programs coordinator for the Ipswich River Watershed Association. The most up-to-date measurement for the river’s stream flow was 0.17 cubic feet per second, which is about 50 times lower than the median flow of 9 cubic feet at this time of the year.

After significant rain last summer, the measurement at this time last year was 80 cubic feet. That’s about 450 times the stream flow rate this summer.


“That’s quite dramatic,” O’Donnell said. “The exact opposite of this year.

“We’re in a critical drought situation right now, so it’s certainly not ideal, and it’s hard to know when there will be any relief,” he added.

The incredibly low river is a major threat to aquatic life, O’Donnell noted.

He emphasized that people need to conserve water, especially outdoors with lawns. That would help cut back on consumption, and reduce stress on the river.


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