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Drought watch lifted in many places, but state urges residents to continue reducing unnecessary water use

Posted 10/11/22

Although the New York State Drought Management Task Force has removed several upstate counties — including Herkimer, Madison and Oneida counties — from its Drought Watch status.

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Drought watch lifted in many places, but state urges residents to continue reducing unnecessary water use

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ALBANY — Although the New York State Drought Management Task Force has removed several upstate counties — including Herkimer, Madison and Oneida counties — from its Drought Watch status, state officials are urging residents to continue to cut back on unnecessary water waste, fixing leaks, and choosing efficient water fixtures.

The three area counties were among those that returned to “Normal” status on the task force rating system because of recent rainfall and higher levels of ground and surface water.

Other counties that returned to the “Normal” designation are: Albany, Broome, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chenango, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Erie, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Livingston, Monroe, Montgomery, Niagara, Onondaga, 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.

According to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the City’s reservoirs are approximately 8% 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

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. 

Wildfire risk

The DEC 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 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, depending on local laws.

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.

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