20200822-LOC-low water

The water level of the Ashuelot River at the West Street dam in Keene is several inches below the top of the dam as seen on Thursday.

As drought conditions persist in much of the state, the N.H. Department of Environmental Services is encouraging restrictions on outdoor water use.

As of Tuesday, the northern tier of Cheshire County, most of Hillsborough County and all of Sullivan County were among the regions experiencing moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The rest of Cheshire County, including Keene, was classified as “abnormally dry,” one step below drought conditions.

A severe drought was affecting about one-fifth of the state, centered on Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties.

The environmental services department attributed the conditions to hot and dry weather following the winter’s below-average snowpack.

“The short-term forecast and longer term precipitation outlooks provide no assurance of receiving the widespread rain needed to mollify drought conditions,” the department said in a news release Friday. “Additionally, groundwater levels across the state continue to fall.”

To make sure New Hampshire communities can meet their basic water needs, the department added, residents should “eliminate outdoor water use for lawn watering in areas experiencing moderate or severe drought and practice other conservation measures.”

The department also urged municipalities and other water systems to restrict outdoor water use.

The Keene Water Department is among the systems with a voluntary water-use restriction in place. That means the city is asking members of the community to cut their water use by about 10 percent, said Aaron Costa, operations manager for Keene’s drinking water facility and wastewater treatment facility.

“Typical water conservation measures are not watering your lawn as frequently, washing cars maybe at one of the local car washes that have water recycling capabilities — doing anything that you can to conserve,” he said.

A number of other water systems in New Hampshire have adopted voluntary or mandatory restrictions, according to a list maintained by the environmental services department and last updated Thursday. In the Monadnock Region, the Hancock and Jaffrey town systems, along with Eastfield Crossing in Swanzey, have voluntary water restrictions. Forest Hill Estates in Swanzey has a mandatory restriction.

Paul Cuno-Booth can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or pbooth@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @PCunoBoothKS