MONTPELIER, Vt. — According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, approximately 73% of Vermont is experiencing dry or drought conditions. Eight percent of the state, primarily in north central Vermont, is in severe drought while moderate drought conditions extend further west and south covering nearly 41% of the state. The State has a Drought Task Force that helps coordinate information and responds to emerging drought issues. Officials are asking Vermonters to be mindful of water use and take steps to conserve water.
"Low levels of precipitation can be made worse by high temperatures and evaporation rates. This can lead to a range of impacts from stunted lawns, poor crop and tree health, and depleted surface and groundwater supplies," said State Climatologist Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, a professor at the University of Vermont and member of the State’s task force.
The State is asking Vermonters to report low or dry wells using a newly-created a crowd-sourced drought map. The map collects data on where water supply shortages are occurring, serving as an early warning system. This information helps the State to recommend conservation practices early in a drought event, potentially avoiding widespread water outages for others in the same area. The data also helps identify areas of concern or areas with repeated outages. This can lead to improved planning and development of future sustainable water supplies for both private and public systems.
If a homeowner has a well that has gone dry, the State’s Onsite Loan Program has loans available to help pay for a new well. More information on the program can be found here. There is also funding available for farmers affected by the drought. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that livestock producers impacted by drought are encouraged to apply to receive assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by October 19. This financial assistance will help farmers install conservation practices like pipelines, wells, and pumps to help alleviate limited water supplies.
Drinking water wells that run low or dry can be dangerous. If a well runs dry and loses pressure, it may draw in contaminated water from nearby sources such as a septic system, or through small leaks in the system. If a resident notices sediment or a change in the taste or color of the water, it may be a sign that the water supply is running low.
Vermonters can adopt four easy habits to conserve water at home:
- Repair leaking faucets, pipes, toilets, or other fixtures as soon as possible.
- Run the dishwasher or washing machine only with full loads and reduce the number of loads per day.
- Install simple, cost-effective tools to decrease household water consumption like aerators for kitchen sink faucets and efficient showerheads.
- Installation of rain barrels along gutters and water spouts. Use this recycled water when watering plants and gardens or when washing cars.
- To evaluate possible health risks, test your drinking water for bacteria. To order a drinking water test kit call 800-660-9997, or visit http://healthvermont.gov/enviro/ph_lab/water_test.aspx
- To find water conservation tips, visit http://anr.vermont.gov/about_us/special-topics/drought or call the Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division at 802-828-1535.
- For private drinking water well and other safe drinking water resources and information, visit http://healthvermont.gov/enviro/water/safe_water.aspx.