(WSYR-TV) — After consulting state and federal agencies, New York Governor Kathy Hochul has directed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to expand the drought watch for the state. New York State is encouraging residents in affected counties, particularly those dependent on private groundwater wells, to conserve water whenever possible during the coming weeks. 

A watch is the first of four levels of state drought advisories, which are watch, warning, emergency, and disaster. No mandatory restrictions are in place under a state drought watch. 

New York State Drought Watch issued 8-17-2022. Image courtest of NYSDEC.

“While recent rains have helped, severe dry conditions continue to persist across the state,” Governor Hochul said. “New Yorkers should take steps to conserve water whenever possible in the areas now under a designated drought watch. Simple steps to reduce water consumption will be crucial to our efforts to help prevent any increased drought levels.”  

The drought watch is triggered by the state drought Index, which looks at precipitation levels, reservoir/lake levels, and stream flow and groundwater levels in the nine drought regions of the state.

How to protect water resources

  • Water lawns only when necessary, choose watering methods that avoid waste, and water in the early morning to reduce evaporation and maximize soil hydration
  • Reuse water collected in rain barrels, dehumidifiers, or air conditioners to water plants
  • Raise lawn mower cutting heights. Longer grass is healthier with stronger roots and needs less water
  • Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks
  • Fix leaking pipes, hoses, and faucets

Wildfire risk is high

The risk for wildfires is high across a majority of New York State. Here are some tips if you have plans to do some backcountry hiking and camping.

  • Use existing campfire rings where possible
  • Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves
  • Pile extra wood away from the fire
  • Clear the area around the ring of leaves, twigs, and other flammable materials
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could cause the fire to spread quickly
  • Drown the fire with water
  • Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet
  • Move rocks as there may be burning embers underneath