Governor Ned Lamont announced on Thursday that at the recommendation of the Connecticut Interagency Drought Workgroup, he is declaring a Stage 3 drought level for New London and Windham counties due to more serious conditions that are emerging in those areas. All other counties in Connecticut – Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, and Tolland – will remain in Stage 2, as declared on July 14.
There are five levels of declarations under the Connecticut Drought Preparedness and Response Plan, with Stage 1 representing below normal conditions and Stage 5 being the most extreme.
Stage 3 identifies a moderate drought event, potentially impacting water supplies, agriculture, or natural ecosystems. Stage 2 is a notification of an emerging drought and is intended as an awareness stage regarding the possibility of a developing drought.
The decision to move two counties to Stage 3 is based on an assessment of indicator data monitored by state and federal agencies, including precipitation, surface waters, groundwater, reservoirs, soil moisture, vegetation, and fire danger conditions. The most recent occasion when a Stage 3 drought condition was declared in Connecticut was in October 2020.
“Connecticut continues to experience the impacts of climate change with this exceptionally dry summer, and while the entire state is experiencing drought conditions, we are seeing the most severe of those conditions right now in the areas of New London and Windham counties,” Governor Lamont said in a release on Thursday. “There are steps that residents and businesses can take to help reduce the impacts of this drought, including by voluntarily reducing water usage to only those things that are absolutely necessary and limiting the amount of water being used. Those who depend on private wells, fire or irrigation ponds, and other highly localized water resources should be especially mindful of local conditions, most particularly in places where previous droughts have had a significant impact on water supplies.”
The Connecticut Interagency Drought Workgroup is a state function that consists of representatives from several state agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Department of Public Health, Office of Policy and Management, and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, with assistance from the National Weather Service and the United States Geological Survey. It meets as necessary to assess drought conditions and make recommendations to the governor on the state’s response.
“We are recommending to the governor that New London and Windham counties all be increased to Stage 3 because precipitation shortfalls, reduced groundwater levels, stream flows, and soil moisture impacts are especially pronounced there,” said Martin Heft, Office of Policy and Management Undersecretary Martin Heft, who serves as chair of the workgroup. “Rainfall and droughts do not follow political boundaries, and impacts can be more severe at certain locations. We urge everyone to follow the advice of their local water company or municipality regarding potential water restrictions.”
To avoid further stressing water supplies and other impacts of drought, state and local governments, residents, and businesses are being asked to voluntarily take the following measures:
- Reduce, to the extent possible, the watering of lawns, recreational and athletic fields, gardens, or other landscaped areas (if watering is essential, late evening hours are best)
- Avoid burning in or near woodlands or brushlands
- Report dry fire/irrigation ponds or private wells to municipal drought liaisons or regional emergency management liaisons
- Postpone the planting of any new lawns or vegetation
- Minimize overall water use by fixing leaky plumbing and fixtures
- Take shorter showers
- Run dishwashers and clothes washing machines with full loads
- Shut off water while washing dishes, shaving, brushing teeth, and lathering up to wash hands, rather than running the water continuously
- Avoid washing vehicles or power-washing homes and other buildings
- Do not use water to clean sidewalks, driveways, and roads
- Do not use public water to fill residential swimming pools
Residents and businesses should also stay alert for any additional conservation requests issued by their water suppliers or municipal governments.
Tips on water-saving measures can be found on the Connecticut Department of Public Health: