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Drought Has Emerged Across Most of NH

Published Tuesday Aug 16, 2022

Drought Has Emerged Across Most of NH

With most of the state experiencing drought, and outlooks leaning toward below normal precipitation and above normal temperature through August, the NH Drought Management Team (DMT) met on Monday August 8, 2022 to discuss current drought conditions and the ongoing impacts to residents and the environment. According to the U.S. Drought monitor released on August 11, 2022, 40% of the state is in “moderate drought”, 13% of the state is in “severe drought” and 53% of the state is experiencing “abnormally dry” conditions. A low snowpack this winter, lack of adequate precipitation over the past spring and summer months, and high temperatures are responsible for the latest drought. 

Mary Stampone, the State Climatologist, stated that the high temperatures in July and August have been exasperating issues. The heat increases evaporation rates from the surface of the earth, as well as the uptake by plants, which together are exceeding the amounts of precipitation received. 

Steve Sherman, Chief of the NH Forest Protection Bureau at the NH Division of Forest and Lands explained that wildfires in July were burning 1’ to 2’ deep, which is similar to what the state normally sees in late August and September. In New Hampshire it is always required to obtain a fire permit for any outdoor fire and extinguish all outdoor fires properly by soaking the fire with water, stirring the embers to make sure all are wet, and continue until everything is cool to the touch, which is especially important during the current drought conditions. 

Members of the agricultural community reported that farmers are relying on practices, like mulching and drip irrigation, as well as the use of technologies such as soil moisture sensors to utilize water resources most efficiently while still producing quality products for consumers. 

Drinking water experts highlighted well contamination issues during drought. Arsenic, uranium and manganese are naturally occurring minerals in the state that may contaminate well water and cause cancer and other health problems. When groundwater levels fall, concentrations of these minerals in drinking water supplies may increase. Homeowners are advised to test well water every three to five years and now is a great time to test. For more information, see the NH Department of Environmental Services private well webpage.

According to state experts, stream flows are below normal across much of the state and while the state’s groundwater monitoring network indicates mixed groundwater levels, some wells are at extremely low levels. Groundwater levels along the Connecticut River Valley from Lancaster to Newport, as well as in Campton, Albany, New Durham and East Kingston are indicative of a more severe hydrological drought than the drought designations represented on the U.S. Drought Monitor map. In other words, when considering meteorologic conditions or dry weather patterns, groundwater levels are lower than would be expected at these locations. 

Mike Howley, NH Geological Survey, explains “When looking at groundwater level trends along the Connecticut River Valley, it is clear the lack of snow last winter resulted in a much smaller spring recharge to the groundwater system.  While this had an impact on groundwater levels, it still does not explain why levels are so low. You must look back even further. The data indicates that groundwater levels in the Connecticut River Valley likely never recovered from the 2020/2021 drought.”

The DMT is recommending that public limit landscape watering and community water systems and municipalities implement mandatory outdoor water use restrictions in areas of moderate an severe drough.  Residents on private wells in areas of severe drought and along the Connecticut Valley should carefully monitor the condition of their well.  Low income well owners may be available for well replacement funding through the WAND program.  See the webpage for eligibility and application. 

An update on drought conditions and forecasts, the reporting form for municipalities and water systems to report restrictions, and other drought guidance may be found at

The DMT is led by NHDES and is comprised of key representatives across state government, academia, industry and other organizations. For a recording of the August 8, 2022, see For more information, contact Jim Martin, NHDES Public Information Officer, at or (603) 568-9777.

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