State officials have declared "significant drought" conditions on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard following two months of below-normal rainfall, and low groundwater levels since June.
The designation was announced Tuesday by the state Energy & Environmental Affairs secretary Rebecca Tepper in consultation with the state Drought Management Task Force (DMTF). They stated that groundwater on the islands not fully recovering since the summer was among the primary considerations for the declaration.
“After receiving record rainfall in Western and Central Massachusetts this year, one thing is clear - no two regions are the same. We have declared a drought in the Islands because the area has not replenished its groundwater sources, unlike the rest of the state,” Tepper said. “Drought conditions have lasting impacts. It will be difficult to return to normal conditions as we experience more frequent, longer droughts. We encourage everyone to do their part and be mindful of water use.”
Wannacomet Water Company director Mark Willett acknowledged that the drought declaration was a topic of conversation among the Nantucket Water Commission members during their meeting Thursday morning.
“We discussed it and we are assessing the situation," Willett told the Current. "Precipitation is low and we could use some rain for sure.”
A "Level 2-Significant Drought," as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, calls for convening an interagency mission group to more closely coordinate on drought assessments, impacts, and responses within state government. During the state's meeting on Monday, the DMTF noted there were currently no water supply concerns; however, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) will continue to provide technical assistance to communities in managing their water systems, including assistance on the use of emergency connections and water supplies. The declaration will remain in effect until water levels return to normal conditions.
The state issued a series of recommendations for island residents, including those utilizing a private well, but there are not yet any specific actions being suggested by the Wannacomet Water Company.
The state, however, said isalnd residents should minimize overall water use and follow any local water use restrictions if issued by the town.
The state Drought Management Task Force will meet again on January 9, 2024, at 10 a.m.