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RI lifts drought advisory, encourages conservation

A statewide drought advisory issued for Rhode Island in August has been lifted. (WJAR)

After all that rain we dealt with, it's official: the latest Southern New England drought is officially over.

Connecticut and Rhode Island on Wednesday joined Massachusetts, which made its declaration a few weeks ago.

Everything's green now. The aquifers are full, and reservoirs too.

The Drought Classification is now “normal,” thanks to a foot-and-a-half of rain in April and May. That’s a far cry from last summer, when Tiverton firefighters couldn't tap Nonquit Pond because it was 3/4 empty.

Pick-your-own fruit businesses cancelled, while water restrictions were in place across the region. Even the Blackstone Valley Cruise ship couldn't navigate the Blackstone River because it would hit rock bottom.

The Drought Classifications range from minimal to bad this way: “normal,” “advisory,” “watch,” “warning,” and “emergency.”

Dry conditions worsened last summer with lack of rainfall, and the official first level “Drought Advisory” was issued.

“There are impacts on stream flows and the groundwater conditions in Rhode Island, and everybody doesn't necessarily see those impacts on a day to day basis,” Kathleen Crawley of the Rhode Island Water Resources Board said.

The Scituate Reservoir in Rhode Island is full now. It supplies water to 60 percent of the Ocean State's population. The massive public works project, which is still the largest in New England, took 10 years to build and was finished in 1925.

The reservoir was designed with a “worst case drought scenario” in mind. It would have to be an emergency for that to go dry.

“There is ample storage in the northern part of our state,” said Crawley.

While the drought is over, it's important to note historically they happen every 10 years or so here, of varying intensity, sometimes lasting in extreme cases in four and five year stretches.

Meanwhile, Water Resources Board Chairwoman Susan Licardi said Rhode Islanders should continue to keep water conservation in mind year-round.

“It’s always a good practice to be aware of your water usage during the summertime,” Licardi said. “Every effort to save water goes a long way. Conservation also helps our water suppliers manage peaks in demand, so pay attention to notifications from suppliers and be sure to adhere to the guidelines set by your city or town.”

The Water Resources Board recommended the following steps for indoor and outdoor water conservation:

  • Don't water during the hottest part of the day when most water evaporates (10 a.m. - 2 p.m.);
  • Try not to "over-water" your lawn. The average lawn needs 1 inch of water per week;
  • Sweep driveways, sidewalks and steps as opposed to spraying them down with a hose;
  • Use pool covers to reduce evaporation when the pool is not in use; and
  • Check load size when you're washing laundry or dishes to ensure you are not using more water than needed.

For more information on ways to conserve water in your home or business, visit the EPA's WaterSense program page.

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