State officials watch for drought conditions

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(Host) Lack of significant rainfall has Vermont slipping back into drought conditions and state agencies say they’re preparing for problems created by the dry weather.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, officials say they’ve learned a lot from other recent droughts.

(Zind) The proper term for current conditions is abnormally dry . That’s just shy of an official drought like the one we were experiencing until last spring.

(Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux) “I don’t know about you, but my lawn’s looking pretty brown.”

(Zind) Dr. Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux is the Vermont State climatologist. She says southern Vermont is the most parched, but all over the state conditions are drier than normal.

(Dupigny-Giroux) “Looking at your rainfall values, your soil moisture values, your stream flow values, I would say that we’re edging back into the dry side of things. We probably did not clear the woods completely with the rainfall that we got.”

(Zind) Dupigny-Giroux says she’s trying to develop a way to accurately define drought in Vermont terms. She’s studying how a lack of rainfall affects the state. Because last year’s drought was the third in less than a decade, she says scientists have learned a lot.

(Dupigney-Giroux) “I think our knowledge base has been improving over the years and we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve got a large amount of information we know we can interpret we can understand what’s going on. And now it’s just fine-tuning and putting into place mitigative measures to actually deal with this, so that we can be proactive as opposed to reactive.”

(Zind) Duncan Higgins of the Department of Public Safety says officials have been watching the weather and preparing for the possibility of another drought. Higgins says last year’s drought was a learning experience for the department’s Emergency Management Office.

(Higgins) “This is the first time to my knowledge that we’ve actually created a drought plan. This time we’re more coordinated in the sense that all of the partners, state and federal, have actually sat down and met, created a plan, identified roles and what resources we can bring to bear.”

(Zind) Higgins says one indication of the increasingly dry conditions is that 28 municipal water systems in Vermont are currently experiencing low water levels and instituting voluntary conservation measures. Higgins says that number was down to zero at one point after the rains in spring and early summer.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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