Drought Conditions Linger Underground, In Vermont Water Supplies

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A persistent drought struck large swaths of the country this summer, and Vermont towns also report concerns about the lack of rain.

After 16 months of above normal temperatures, there was some relief late last month. But it’s still dry, and that means problems for many wells and springs that supply drinking water in rural parts of the state.

State climatologist Dr. Lesley-Anne Dupigny-Giroux says aquifer levels continue to drop because there was so little rainfall this summer.

"The groundwater supplies are being affected," Dupigny-Giroux said. "We’re seeing lower stream levels. We’re seeing Lake Champlain lower than it was at this time last year. And so for that sort of hydrology aspect of the landscape to be affected, it takes a longer timeframe to actually observe that."

And Vermont towns have begun to observe it. Health officials in Townshend are monitoring the availability of potable water for residents with shallow wells.

And town officials in Weathersfield said earlier this month that some homes were without water.

The National Weather Service reports the dry conditions have now popped up in the northern part of the state – something Dupigny-Giroux says is quite abnormal.

"It’s usually the southeastern part of the state that tends to be more drought-prone," she said. "So seeing that broad swath across Lamoille County, and Addison and Caledonia and the northern counties was particularly troubling. And that’s where some of the reports actually started coming in first in terms of constituencies needing assistance with drinking water supplies."

There are also signs of drought in Vermont forests. Certain tree species – including white birch – started to shed their scorched and curled leaves as early as August.

Climatologists say cities and towns should prepare to deal with both flood and drought conditions because – as the state has witnessed since Tropical Storm Irene – the climate is rapidly changing.

USA Today: Stubborn Drought Maintains Grip On Lower 48 States

EPA: Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy

NASA: This animation shows the storage of groundwater from August 2002 through August 2012.

Click the play button in the bottom left corner.


You can find select board minutes from Townshend and Weathersfield – as well as government documents from 100 other Vermont cities and towns at VPR’s Public Post. While you’re there, post a comment or send a message on Twitter using the hash-tag #Public Post to open a discussion about an issue in your town.

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