Drought Continues; Fire Danger Growing
By Gregory T. Federspiel
While a bit of rain was a welcomed sight last week, it likely will take many months of above average rainfall to make up for the 10 inches of rainfall deficit we currently face. The State continues to monitor the situation and has stated the region is in a critical drought condition. While Manchester’s supplies are still doing OK, the longer this lack of precipitation persists, the more worrisome it becomes.
On a positive note, residents have responded well to the mandatory ban on outdoor water use that remains in place. We have seen a 20% drop in water consumption which is helping to conserve our water supplies. As we come to the end of August we can hope that weather patterns will change and more rain will arrive. It will take time to recover from the lack of rain we have experienced these last few months. Making up for some 10 inches of precipitation will not occur quickly (and if it does that means we are getting too much all at once that will runoff to sea rather than soaking into the ground like we need it to.)
Continued drought into the fall means that we will enter the winter months with low supplies. If we have a cold winter with snow and ice rather than rain, our main reservoir, Gravelly Pond will not be replenished until spring melt. This could make our water supplies even more problematic than they are now. Of course, the fall could bring a change to above normal precipitation – we will just have to see what mother nature brings our way. In the meantime, we must conserve.
Current conditions are extremely dry. You can see it in the vegetation all around us. Kick the ground and you create an instant dust cloud. The risk of a brush or forest fire is very high. Numerous fires have occurred throughout the region, with some being very stubborn to extinguish. The fire can smolder underground in the roots of trees only to flare up later. Please be very careful. Outdoor fires can quickly get out of control and are discouraged in any form but especially wood and charcoal fires that create embers that the wind can carry. The fire ban on public lands remains in effect. Given the large amount of forest lands in Manchester, it behooves us to be extra careful with fire. We certainly do not want to be dealing with a large forest fire that can destroy homes and threaten lives.
As the impacts of climate change advance, we are witnessing more extreme weather patterns. While we are experiencing a drought, along with much of the western part of the country, other areas are dealing with too much water. Most recently in the news is the tremendous rainfall and flooding in Kentucky and Texas. The projections are that our part of the world will become wetter but that summer drought conditions will be more common as well. Precipitation events are getting bigger with larger amounts of moisture in more intense storms. Less frequent but more intense storms bring on a new set of problems as our infrastructure is not designed for the higher volumes of water.
With luck we will see a break in the current drought but until we do please continue to reduce your water consumption and be very mindful of the fire threats.