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After months with inadequate rain, a dry Connecticut river bed is testament to conditions in mid-September.

With a threat of dry conditions persisting into 2021, water reuse and desalination are key strategies

In the Northeastern United States this year, several months of persistent dry conditions pushed most of the region into drought by late September, with conditions in portions of Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire earning the designation of extreme drought (D3). Most projections call for the drought to carry over into 2021.

The drought has brought well-below-normal streamflows and stunted grass growth on most pastureland in the region. Many wells have gone dry. More than a thousand fires have broken out on land, and toxic algal blooms have attacked surface water bodies. In mid-October, the drought triggered several U.S. Department of Agriculture drought-assistance programs, and the agency is offering cost-sharing to farmers who establish resilient practices such as microirrigation.

Then in early November, the remnants of Hurricane Zeta dropped 1-3 inches of precipitation over much of the Northeast. But, much of the water was lost to runoff, and the recent rainfall has not been adequate to offset long-term deficits in many areas.

Drought effects have persisted, and steady rain is needed or groundwater won’t recover over the winter. This would extend drought and its effect on water wells into 2021.

Conservation Strategies

Recommendations for water conservation in the Northeast have focused on consumer-level restrictions. Over the winter, consumers are urged to remain vigilant in the prevention of waste from running toilets, dripping faucets, inefficient washing machines, and showerheads, as well as inadequately winterized pipes.

So far, the region has been as seriously affected by water shortage as the U.S. West, which is not relying on consumer restrictions, but also is ramping up systemic changes to its water management, including establishing water reuse, desalination, and groundwater banking programs. As climate change progresses, the Northeast stands to benefit from these changes, too.

Aquifer Recharge

When water needs increase, so does depletion of groundwater stores. Managed aquifer recharge is a strategy that replenishes aquifers with a range of techniques, from basin infiltration to the use of injection wells.

Water reuse technology can clean wastewater to the point that it can be used for aquifer replenishment. And with the evolution of new, smaller modular treatment units, it’s more viable for such water recycling to be decentralized. That means treatment can be brought directly to point of use while matching quality and price points of large, centralized treatment plants.

Contact Fluence to explore resilient water and wastewater treatment options for your community’s drought plan.

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