New drought numbers don’t bode well for Boston area

Almost 40% of the state is now in "extreme" drought.

The effects of the drought are evident on a fairway at the Sharon Country Club. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The entire state of Massachusetts is now in some sort of drought, as classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor. And not only that, but almost 95% of the state is classified as being in “severe” or “extreme” drought, both of which historically have impacts on crops, wildlife, and amount of groundwater available. 

The situation isn’t getting any better either — in just the last week the percentage of the state classified as “severe” rose from 31.08% to 55.01%. 

Severe drought, according to the Drought Monitor, impacts specialty crops, leads to warnings about outdoor burns, can make trees brittle, and lowers overall water quality. 


The percentage of the commonwealth under “extreme” drought also is rising, registering at 39.48% this week, up from 24.5% last week. Areas experiencing extreme drought now include all or part of Essex, Middlesex, Worcester, Norfolk, Bristol, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Barnstable counties.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.

In “severe” drought, crop loss is widespread, dairy farmers struggle financially, wells need to be dug deeper as they start running dry, and wildlife disease outbreaks can occur. 

Last week Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Bethany Card announced that four of the state’s seven drought regions are classified as a “Level 3-Critical Drought.” Those regions include everything but Cape Cod, the islands and western Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Drought Management Plan specifies that at a Level 3 drought, all nonessential outdoor water use is banned. Essential uses are for health or safety, by regulation, for the production of food and fiber, to care for livestock, and for core business purposes, according to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Many communities around the state already have water use bans in place, often limiting the number of days a week watering is allowed to zero, one, or two. 

The hot and dry conditions are likely to stick around in the Northeast — at least through the end of this week, when the National Weather Service forecasts an increase in temperature.

Boston is even drier than some desert locations across the United States, WCVB meteorologist A.J. Burnett tweeted. 


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