Severe drought causes water bans, low rivers, impacts on agriculture

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

Severe and moderate drought conditions have triggered water bans in an increasing number of communities. Local rivers are at an all-time low due to lack of rain and farmers are facing a very difficult growing season.

“I am really shocked at how low some of the creek flows are and how low the aquifers are,” David Boutt, a professor in the UMass Amherst Department of Geosciences, told the Herald this week. “It’s shocking how quickly the flow levels have dropped.”

Very shallow 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 an all-time low for this time of year, according to Ryan O’Donnell, program coordinator for the Ipswich River Watershed Association. The most up-to-date measurement for the river’s flow rate was 0.17 cubic feet per second, which is about 50 times less than the median flow rate of 9 cubic feet at this time of year.

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

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

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

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

He pointed out that people need to conserve water, especially outdoors with lawns. This would help reduce consumption and reduce stress on the river.

“Let your lawns turn brown,” added O’Donnell. “It’s okay for them to turn brown over a period of time. Eventually they will come back. ”

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