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Despite recent rain, New Hampshire is still in a serious drought

Concord Monitor
Published: 10/4/2020 5:08:56 PM
Modified: 10/4/2020 5:08:52 PM

Although most of New Hampshire saw an inch or more of rain from Wednesday through Friday, putting a temporary pause to concern about wildfires, the state remains in a severe drought and officials are warning people to conserve water, especially those who use private wells.

The concern is the approach of winter. Once the ground freezes, rain and melting snow have difficulty soaking into the soil and getting down to aquifers.

In that case, even if there’s a lot of precipitation over the winter, wells may not get recharged until early spring because that moisture will stay above ground.

Most of the state has seen between 8 inches and 10 inches less rain this year than normal.

Surface water such as rivers and lakes are extremely low. The Contoocook River at the Hopkinton Dam was running at one-fifth of its normal flow for this time of year on Oct. 2, even though the week’s rain has refreshed surface water levels somewhat.

The Department of Environmental Services has doubled down on its warnings to people about the need to conserve, saying that autumn lawn-watering, car-washing, power washing of walls and other outdoor water use should be curtailed or eliminated.

Even indoor use should be minimized as possible, the DES said in a statement. They also suggested that people on wells — about two-thirds of residences in New Hampshire covering half the population — should “spread out water usage throughout the day to allow the well to recharge between uses.”

As of Oct. 1, all of New Hampshire, except a sliver along the Connecticut River in Cheshire County, was in severe drought, the third out of five categories of drought, with the region stretching from Loudon east to Rochester and the Maine coast in exceptional drought, the fourth category.

New Hampshire last suffered this severe of a drought in 2016.

Dozens of municipal and private water systems have imposed voluntary or mandatory water restrictions.

People who have well problems can report them to the state via an online form. More information is at the Drought Management website:

A U.S. Geological Survey groundwater monitoring well on Iron Works Road in Concord was 18 feet below the surface on Oct. 1, equaling low points reached in recent summers.

During the 2016 drought, water levels in that well fell as much as 20 feet below ground level.

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