Posted Oct 02, 2020
Drought Update, The Five Stages of Drought, and What You Can Do to Help

Drought Update, The Five Stages of Drought, and What You Can Do to Help

While every little bit of rain helps, unfortunately, the rain we received this week was not enough to make much of a difference. On Thursday, the Interagency Drought Workgroup (IDW), the entity responsible for actively monitoring water conditions and recommending drought declarations and mitigation actions, voted to recommend to the Governor that Hartford, Tolland, Windham, and New London Counties be elevated to Stage 3: Moderate Drought. Middlesex and Litchfield Counties are at Stage 2, while Fairfield and New Haven remain at Stage 1. According to the NOAA and US National Weather Service, we are not likely to see a major rain event for the next 3-4 weeks, a prediction which ultimately played a big part in making this recommendation. NOTE: The governor has the final say on declarations and reserves the right to override the IDW’s decisions.

What does each stage mean?

The current Drought Preparedness and Response (adopted in 2018) provides criteria and recommended actions for response for five stages of drought. Here is a synopsis of the steps taken at each stage in our own words. You can find details on the criteria and actions by clicking here and scrolling down to page 21.

  • Stage 1: Below Normal Conditions – This stage can be thought of as a “head’s up” phase. It is a time for state agencies to lay the path for response, ramp up internal communications, and begin to collect data they need to make decisions going forward. This was a new addition to the most recent plan and has proved to be an extremely beneficial “pre” step in ensuring that Connecticut is ready to respond to drought.
  • Stage 2 – Incipient Drought – At this initial stage, there is more outward public communication asking citizens to reduce outdoor water use and pay close attention to communications from their water provider. Internal activity ramps up between the various entities that manage water.
  • Stage 3 – Moderate Drought – Things are beginning to get serious. The Governor may convene the Unified Command (heads of state agencies that are brought together for emergency response purposes.) Conservation measures are maximized and municipal officials are asked to request of their residents that outdoor watering be curtailed. All communication channels are utilized to urge residents and businesses to conserve water.
  • Stage 4 – Severe Drought – All unnecessary water usage is banned with a complete prohibition on outdoor watering. The degree of public outreach and education increases. Alternative sources of water are sought and drought-related diversion permits are expedited.
  • Stage 5 – Extreme Drought – Declaration of emergency and application for federal aid. Mandatory restrictions are more strictly enforced and a high hazard rationing plan is initiated.

Why might the stages be different from county to county?

While this may seem like a confusing way to evaluate drought in a state as small as Connecticut, conditions can be very different from county to county. There are many factors involved in how a region and community will experience drought conditions: the number of residents on private wells; the amount of storage and access to water sources that their water provider has access; types of aquifers and soils in the area impacting groundwater recharge, just to name a few.

It is extremely important to remember that interconnections exist between various utilities and in the more serious stages of drought, these interconnections will be utilized and larger stores of water may be called upon to provide water for tanker trucks for communities in need where private wells have run dry and local utility supplies have been depleted. This is why it’s important to encourage voluntary conservation before we reach an emergency situation. Robust drought preparedness reduces the need for further drought response.

What can you do now?

If you are on a public or community water system – You may have already heard from you water provider as to their status. If you have not, check their website for more information or give them a call and ask. Do you feel that your provider has done a great job? Please let us know. Have you not heard from your provider and feel that you should have? We’d like to know about that as well. Send an email to (or reply to this email) or call us at (860) 361-9349.

If you have a private well – Please conserve water and consider curtailing any fall planting of grass or plants that will require a significant amount of water.

Help us document the impact to our rivers and streams – Please send photos of your rivers and streams. Email them to (or reply to this email). Please include the name of the water body, the date the photo was taken, and the exact location where the photo was taken (or make sure the location is turned on for your camera.) These photos will help us better understand the impact in different areas.

hat is the IDW and what does it do?

The Interagency Drought Workgroup (IDW) is the entity responsible for actively monitoring water conditions and recommending drought declarations and mitigation actions to the Office of the Governor and state agency commissioners, under the authority of the WPC in accordance with the Connecticut Drought Preparedness and Response Plan. It consists of representatives from the Office of Policy and Management, Department of Public Health, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and the Department of Agriculture. The IDW receives data from the US Geological Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and the US National Weather Services. The IDW looks at Precipitation, Groundwater, Streamflow, Reservoir Levels, Palmer Drought Severity Index, Crop Moisture Index, Vegetation Drought Response Index, Fire Danger, and US Drought Monitor to determine each stage. The IDW has done a great job of monitoring the conditions very closely thus far. Very detailed information can be found on the Connecticut Drought Information Website.

Also, Rivers Alliance of CT has an analysis of recent streamflow status on our Know Your Flow! page that includes counts of the number of USGS streamflow gages reporting low, very-low and record setting low flows between storms.