Drought improvement

Water flow along the Exeter River in Exeter has improved in recent months.

Several rounds of rain and snow in recent months have washed away the extreme drought conditions that gripped New Hampshire for much of last year.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor report issued Thursday shows only abnormally dry conditions and some moderate drought in parts of Grafton, Merrimack and Sullivan counties.

“We’ve seen over the last couple of months a steady improvement across the state. Just over half the state is out of any kind of drought conditions. Three months ago that was not the case,” said Michael Clair, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine.

Concord experienced above normal precipitation in December and ended the year with a total of 33.3 inches, which was 7.3 inches below normal, Clair said.

While there’s still a deficit, Clair said conditions should continue to improve.

“This is the time of year when normally we would be recharging the water table anyway,” he said.

The long-range forecast calls for above average precipitation in January, but Clair said there’s nothing on the horizon.

“It’ll be pretty quiet for at least the next week. It’s not usually this quiet for the first part of January,” he said.

The improving drought conditions are welcome news for local officials who have been monitoring water levels and enacting outdoor watering bans.

The select board in Exeter agreed this week to ease up on restrictions by reducing the ban on outdoor water. The change means landscape watering will be allowed every other day with no restriction on any other outdoor water uses.

“Our surface waters have recovered. We’re actually slightly above normal as far as flows go for the Exeter River for this time of year,” Exeter Public Works Director Jennifer Perry told board members at a meeting Monday.

Perry said it’s taking longer for the groundwater to recover, adding that it’s still below average.

“That’s to be expected. Those do not recover as quickly,” she said.

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