More than half of Massachusetts is now experiencing an extreme drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday.
The new map more than doubles the area considered to be at risk of major crop losses and widespread water restrictions or shortages.
Boston.com meteorologist Dave Epstein said this year’s drought is the worst since 1965, with some areas falling 10 to 14 inches below their average rainfall over the past year.
“The lack of rain obviously caused the extreme drought area to expand in the last week,” he said.
Last week, the areas of extreme drought were limited to the northeast parts of the state, covering Essex and Suffolk Counties and parts of Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Bristol counties. Now the affected area stretches out to include parts of Worcester, Hampshire, and Franklin counties, as well as the entirety of Plymouth County.
Worried by falling water levels in nearby reservoirs, Worcester officials activated an emergency connection Wednesday to get water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authorities, according to The Boston Globe.
“A lot of systems are really feeling the stress,” Frederick Laskey, executive director of the MWRA, which provides water to Boston and dozens of cities and towns across the eastern part of the state, told the newspaper.
Cambridge, Lynn, and other communities with dropping reservoir levels are considering similar actions, according to the Globe.
Epstein said he highly recommends that homeowners with their own wells, who are not subject municipal water restrictions, should conserve water.
Extreme drought is the second most-severe designation from the U.S. Drought Monitor. All but the northwest corner of the state, which is listed as “abnormally dry,” is now experiencing moderate, severe, or extreme drought, according to the monitor. An estimated 6.5 million people are living in areas affected by drought in the Commonwealth.
This year marked the first time any part of the state was classified as being in extreme drought since the monitor was established in 1999.