A record-setting drought has settled over the New York region
and much of the East Coast. The Eastern Seaboard of the US is
having a dry fall and winter, the latest dry seasons in a dry
spell that began in 1998. The problem is almost everywhere,
from Georgia in the south to Maine in the north.
The dry months that began in the summer have stretched into
winter. The groundwater supply is normally built up in the
winter and begins to subside in the spring when new plants
soak it up.
New York City and most New Jersey counties have been under a
drought warning since late January. The Delaware River Basin
Commission, which controls Delaware River water used by 20
million people, issued a drought emergency in December that
reduces allotments for New York City and the four states
sharing the supply. New York City gets about half of its
water from the Delaware River.
The Potomac River around Washington, D.C. has been setting
records for low water. Officials in Orange County, N.Y., say
the drought is the worst there in 30 years, while New Jersey
is reporting its driest January and February since 1895.
The East Coast is not the only part of the country with not
enough precipitation. The lingering effects of a multiyear
drought are still affecting the Mountain States and Southern
California. The Northwest and the Mississippi Valley,
however, have received plenty of water.
Hydrologists say that the full effect of the drought will not
be felt for five more weeks, when lawns, trees and crops
begin to search for moisture in the dry earth.
The Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration has a Drought Severity Index that
shows conditions of moderate to severe drought up the
Atlantic Coast, from the Florida line to the northern tip of
Maine. Eastern Pennsylvania, the Hudson River Valley, all of
Long Island and most of New England are in the severe drought
category, meaning that one would be expected once in 10
years. New Jersey south of the Raritan River and a wide band
covering most of inland and northern Maine are listed on the
index as suffering extreme drought, expected only once in 20
It is not just farmers who have grounds for worry. Drought
has already been blamed for pine beetle infestations along
the Atlantic Coast, and inadequate water in the soil will
stunt the growth of shrubs and bushes.
Wildlife also suffers. Lowered water levels in ponds and
streams expose aquatic plants to freezing, and the loss of
those plants, in turn, affects insect larvae and dragonfly
nymphs that depend on them.
A spokesman for a fishing group said that the fishing in New
York State would probably be poor for several years. The
water is too low for the trout to breed properly.