Drought conditions from earlier in the fall and summer have subsided. At least for most of Upstate New York in the Finger Lakes and Central New York.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation gave an update on drought conditions across the state. The State’s Drought Management Task Force updated the drought status to “Normal” from “Drought Watch” for multiple regions including most of upstate New York because of recent rainfall and higher levels of ground and surface water. Despite the encouraging hydrological conditions, all New Yorkers are urged to continue reducing unnecessary water waste, fixing leaks, and choosing efficient water fixtures.
The following counties will return to Normal designations: Albany, Broome, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chenango, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Erie, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Herkimer, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Onondaga, Oneida, Ontario, Orleans, Otsego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Seneca, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Washington, Wyoming, and Yates.
The following counties will remain in Drought Watch designations due to ongoing precipitation deficits, unseasonably low streamflows, and groundwater declines: Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Suffolk, and Ulster. A watch is the first of four levels of State drought advisories, which are watch, warning, emergency, and disaster. No mandatory restrictions are in place under a state Drought Watch. A map of the counties under Drought Watch are available? here.
New York State drought region IIA, which includes New York City and Westchester, remains in normal status due to the satisfactory storage levels and refill probability of the New York City reservoirs.
According to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the City’s reservoirs are approximately eight percent below normal for this time of year, with 295 billion gallons currently in storage, compared to 332 billion gallons normally. DEC continues to work closely with DEP to monitor reservoir conditions and encourage responsible water use, especially outdoors, regardless of the hydrological conditions or season.
To protect water resources, homeowners in regions under Drought Watch are encouraged to voluntarily reduce outdoor water use and follow these tips:
- Water lawns only when necessary, choose watering methods that avoid waste, and water in the early morning to reduce evaporation and maximize soil hydration;
- Reuse water collected in rain barrels, dehumidifiers, or air conditioners to water plants;
- Raise lawn mower cutting heights. Longer grass is healthier with stronger roots and needs less water;
- Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks; and
- Fix leaking pipes, hoses, and faucets.
Statewide Drought Conditions in 2022
In August 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul directed DEC to expand the Drought Watch to additional regions across New York State due to below-normal precipitation during the prior three months, low stream flows and low groundwater levels. An increasing number of water supply challenges were reported due to dry conditions which prompted the need for the expansion of the watch status to ensure adequate public water supplies. Many of these water supply challenges have been temporarily resolved with the end of the outdoor water use season. New York State will continue to collaborate with water providers to reduce peak summer demand by promoting sensible solutions like pool cover usage, reduced lawn watering, and best practice landscaping.
A Drought Watch can be triggered by the State Drought Index, which reflects precipitation levels, reservoir/lake levels, and stream flow and groundwater levels in the nine drought regions of the state. Each of these indicators is assigned a weighted value based on its significance to various uses in a region. The State Drought Index is attuned to the specific attributes of New York and may differ moderately from some national technical drought assessments.
DEC and the U.S. Geological Survey are partners in evaluating hydrologic conditions across New York State. In addition, DEC supports efforts by local governments and stakeholders to undertake water conservation measures based on specific local circumstances.
New York State continues to encourage New Yorkers and visitors to follow the recommendations below to reduce the risk of wildfires. While all of New York State is currently at low risk for fires (see map here:?https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/68329.html) any outdoor fire can spread quickly, especially if the wind picks up. It is illegal to burn leaves anywhere in New York State. Brush of a certain size may be burned. See the burning regulations for details.
Campfires are among the top five causes of wildfires. While camping in the backcountry, New Yorkers are advised to:
- Use existing campfire rings where possible;
- Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves. Pile extra wood away from the fire;
- Clear the area around the ring of leaves, twigs, and other flammable materials;
- Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could cause the fire to spread quickly; and
- Drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Move rocks as there may be burning embers underneath.