Bristol County

Drought conditions worsen across Massachusetts

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. — Since he was sixteen, John Colletto’s planted a garden. At 79, he’s now coaching his plants through one of the hottest summers he’s ever seen.

But they’re doing fine, in large part because Colletto is a water conservationist — with seven barrels collecting run-off from various points on his roof.

“Even a slight rain will fill it half full,” Coilletto said. “Even the few drops of rain that we’ve had, I still collect it in the barrels. And it helps. It helps a lot.”

After a downpour Tuesday in North Attleborough, Colletto’s barrels are brimming. He’s now got nearly 400 gallons of water at his disposal — all from the sky.

“I don’t care about the money,” Colletto said. “There’s going to be a problem one day with water. This whole world is going to be short of good water.”

For Massachusetts, that day is now.

Tuesday, the state declared that much of the Commonwealth is in a critical drought status. The Cape, Islands and far western communities are in slightly better shape than everyone else — but a source tells Boston 25 News conditions in those areas are deteriorating as well.

Attleboro is one of the communities now in the critical category. Mayor Paul Heroux told Boston 25 News that if residents see illegal water use, they ought to say something. While he’s not advocating confrontations, Heroux suggested that in some situations that might mean just reminding a neighbor of the new restrictions. If that’s uncomfortable to do, the mayor said residents should call police.

Residents caught violating the tighter water restrictions will be fined, Heroux said.

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “It’s very selfish to think the greening of your lawn matters more than the fire department putting out fires.”

Heroux also warned that things could get worse in the coming weeks — with an “Emergency Drought” status under discussion. If that happens, residents would be asked to conserve water even more by, for example, limiting toilet flushing and washing only full loads of clothes.

Under such a designation, communities would also make plans to acquire water from other sources. Heroux said the main issue is that water reservoirs are dangerously low — to the point where replenishment might be impossible. That could lead to a drought next summer.

Attleboro resident Farid Zaarour usually prides himself on a green, summer lawn. This year, he hasn’t turned on the sprinkler system all season and his lawn, like so many others, is a desiccated expanse of beige.

“The damage has already been done,” Zaarour said. “Twenty six years I’ve been in this house, we never had a water issue.”

Zaarour is eyeing the level of his swimming pool with some concern, too. Once it gets below a certain point, filtration becomes impossible — and new restrictions mean he can’t top it off.

A bit of rain fell over Attleboro Tuesday. But in several respects, it didn’t amount to much.

Dave Fleming, nursery manager at Briggs Nursery in North Attleborough, said the ground has been so sunbaked this summer, that it’s likely at least some of the rain just ran off. To ensure that doesn’t happen in the future, he suggested gardeners water using a hose — and concentrating not so much on giving any one plant a large amount of water — but getting larger pieces of ground, moist.

“If we could get some rain tomorrow, it would be fantastic,” Fleming said. “To get a consistent, deep soaking — like an all day event — would really be ideal.”

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