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This U.S. Geological Survey map from April 10 shows how Massachusetts and N.H. are the most drought-stricken areas in dry Northeast. Bright red dots show the lowest daily flows for rivers and creeks.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nashua River at ‘extreme drought’ stage, other area rivers almost as bad

Surface water levels throughout southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts have fallen to “severe drought” conditions, while the Nashua River is considered in “extreme drought,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The area has only a slight chance of rain over the next week.

As an example of the situation, river flow at the mouth of the Souhegan River is lower than almost any other year at this date over the past century. The U.S. Geological Survey monitoring gauge reports that the river’s flow has fallen to 15 percent of the normal for this time of year, less than during 99 percent of the April 10 measurements made since 1909.

The situation is similar at all area rivers, according to USGS stations. The survey’s monitoring wells are still at average levels for this time of year, indicating that the shortage of surface water, which started with the largely snow-free winter, has not percolated to underground water supplies.

The flow of the Merrimack River at Goffs Falls is 21 percent of the normal for this time of year and the Piscataquog River in Goffstown is at 18 percent of the normal for this time of year.

The Nashua River in Pepperell, Mass., is 26 percent of the normal for this time of year, but due to extremely low flow upstream in central Massachusetts, its watershed is placed in the worst possible category: “extreme hydrological drought,” in which hydrological refers to surface flow, not underground water levels.

Elsewhere the picture is similar. The Lamprey River in Newmarket is at 14 percent of its normal flow; the Contoocook River in Peterborough is at 15 percent of normal; and the Suncook River in North Chichester, which flows into the Merrimack, is at a mere 10 percent of normal for this time of year.

Northern New Hampshire rivers are in better shape, but even there, rivers and creeks are running less than usual.

In Massachusetts, the situation is bad throughout the entire state. The Millers River near Winchendon, Mass., is an extreme example, flowing at a mere 6 percent of its usual rate for this time of year. The Charles River in Waltham is at 34 percent of its usual flow.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or