On Beacon Hill: Shrewsbury’s Beaton ratchets up drought vigilance

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From State House News Service


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Water conservation ‘more important than ever,’ state environmental chief says

After seven straight months of below-average rainfall, all outdoor water use should be banned in all parts of Massachusetts except for Berkshire County and Cape Cod and the Islands, the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs announced last week.

Drought Management Task Force members -- co-chair and Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' assistant director of water policy, Vandana Rao, left; Energy and Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, center; and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg -- met Thursday and received an update on drought conditions from various state and federal agencies.

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Matthew Beaton, center

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew A. Beaton of Shrewsbury elevated the western region of the state from a drought advisory to a drought watch on Friday, and elevated the Connecticut River Valley from a drought watch to a drought warning, following the recent recommendation of the state’s Drought Management Task Force.

“Water reservoirs, groundwater, streamflow, and soil moisture levels continue to decline, severely impacting the commonwealth’s riverine habitats and fisheries, agricultural sector, and elevating the risk of fire,” Beaton said in a statement. “Now more important than ever, we all must administer best water conservation practices to avoid additional stress on our drinking water sources and other water dependent habitats.”

With each heightened classification, the state ramps up its messaging around water conservation, a stronger push for water-use restrictions, and more intensified monitoring. Water suppliers in regions under a drought warning are urged ban all outdoor water use, and those under a drought watch should limit outdoor water use to handheld watering after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m., according to the task force.

Drought conditions as of Oct. 1

Courtesy Executive Office of Environmental and Energy Affais

Drought conditions as of Oct. 1

The state has been under its own official drought declaration since July 1. More than 98 percent of the state is experiencing a “moderate” drought or worse, and the remaining bit of the state, near North Adams, is “abnormally dry,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

With Beaton’s latest drought declaration, the drought classifications now are:

  • Central Mass. — Drought Warning
  • Western Mass. — Drought Watch
  • Connecticut River Valley — Drought Warning
  • Northeast Mass. — Drought Warning
  • Southeastern Mass. — Drought Warning
  • Cape Cod and the Islands — Drought Watch

— Colin A. Young

Blacks 3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, says report from Question 4-backing ACLU

Eight years after Massachusetts voted to decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, racial disparities in arrests for marijuana possession have continued, a report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts found, and they disproportionately affect African-Americans.

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