PROVIDENCE, RI — Federal authorities have declared a drought-related disaster in Rhode Island as New England’s second-largest city restricts outdoor water use as drought in the northeast escalates worsen.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday that all five counties in the state were “primary natural disaster zones” due to ongoing drought.
The statement allows eligible farms to be considered for low-interest emergency loans and other assistance from the department’s Agricultural Services Agency. Farmers have eight months from the date of the claim to apply for the aid.
“This prolonged drought has been difficult for many Rhode Island farmers, adversely affecting crop yield and quality,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island who earlier this month asked the declaration of disaster, in a press release. “This federal statement is good news for the state and should help alleviate some of the production losses that local farmers are facing.”
Rhode Island saw less than 0.5 inches (1.2 centimeters) of rain in July, compared to an average of 2.5 inches (6.3 centimeters), according to Reed’s office. Over 99% of the state experiences extreme drought.
Meanwhile, the city of Worcester, Mass., declared a drought on Monday, restricting the use of outdoor irrigation systems and urging the public to limit indoor water use.
The central Massachusetts city of 206,000 said its reservoirs had dropped to about 72% capacity. In response, Worcester officials are banning the use of irrigation systems between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The public is also urged to do their part by “not letting water run in your kitchen and bathroom sinks more than necessary, by not letting the hose run while washing a car in the ‘driveway and making sure dishwashers are full before running them,” the city statement said.
Worcester officials will also meet with representatives of large water users, including hospitals and colleges, to discuss ways to reduce usage.
Most of New England is experiencing drought, according to the US Drought Monitor, with about 40% of Massachusetts in “extreme drought.”