The Bulletin Board

Dry wells and wildfires brought on by deepening drought

By: - August 25, 2022 4:08 pm

Around 23 percent of the southern part of the state is now in severe drought. (Screenshot: U.S. Drought Monitor)

With drought conditions deepening in some parts of the state, wells have started running dry and wildfire activity has increased.

While there’s typically a reprieve from wildfires during the summer months, when trees turn green, that hasn’t happened this year, according to Steven Sherman, chief of the New Hampshire Forest Protection Bureau. Around 210 acres have burned already this year, putting the state on track to exceed the typical 250 acres.

“It’s busier than it normally is throughout the summer,” Sherman said. Fires have burned steadily throughout July and August, especially in the southern part of the state where drought has really taken hold, he said.

Some of those fires are burning up to a foot deep, which means they take a long time to put out. Instead of small springtime fires that can be extinguished in a few hours, Sherman said the one- to three-acre fires the state is now experiencing can take days to eliminate. Accessing water to put out those fires has also become challenging as water sources like streams and rivers dry up.

Around 23 percent of the southern part of the state is now in severe drought, with a small strip in extreme drought, according to a weekly drought report released Thursday. An additional quarter of the state is in moderate drought.

The Connecticut River Valley is one part of the state where drought conditions worsened in the past week.

While groundwater has been low in the region for months, now those underground conditions are also evident above ground, with streams and rivers drying up, according to Ted Diers, assistant director of the water division for the Department of Environmental Services.

“We’re getting lots of well applications from people that are having issues,” Diers said. “We’re hearing reports all over the state.”

Diers said that so far about a dozen people have applied for the state’s assistance program for low-income households whose wells have run dry, but he expects more applications in the coming months.

“We expect it to get worse,” he said. Forecasts show a small chance that the state could get slightly more precipitation than normal, but warmer weather is likely. That means rain would either be too quickly evaporated or utilized by plants to alleviate drought conditions, Diers said.

Assistance is available for low-income residential well owners. The application is available online at the Department of Environmental Services’ website. Contact [email protected] for assistance and inquiries.    

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.