It's been a dry year underground, too

scraggly parched lawn

As you've probably noticed, much of the weather this year so far has been abnormally dry. Even though the Albany area had a somewhat-rainier-than-normal August, we're still behind the typical year-to-date rainfall total by more than three inches, or about 12 percent. And maybe you've noticed some signs -- including dry fields and faded lawns.

But what about the water we can't see? The new issue of the Capital District Region Planning Commission's Capital District Data looks at the state of the region's aquifers -- bodies of water stored underground -- and finds they're at unusually low levels, not just because of the lack of rain, but also because of the relatively snow-free winter. A clip:

Long term trends in aquifer water levels show that 4 of the 6 aquifers in the Region are running deficits. These deficits are helped most by long, low intensity, precipitation events that soak the ground. Brief, high intensity, precipitation events cause high levels of runoff as the sudden deluge of water cannot be absorbed quickly by the soil. As a result, the heavy rains of July and August have not had the impact on improving aquifer levels that many would have suspected. If the long term trend of deficits continues for the Region's aquifers, the availability of water for the Region's wells, streams, crops, and recreation, will become increasingly challenged.

The article goes on to explain that the lack of rain stresses these underground water reserves in other ways. For example: Farms aren't getting needed precipitation so they're drawing on wells and ponds, which in turn are drawing on the aquifers, reducing them further.

If we get a typical winter snowfall -- around 60 inches of snow -- that could put things back on track. But: "If, come February, there has not been significant snow accumulation, then local officials may want to consider adopting local ordinances for water conservation in the Spring. These may include, but are not limited to, ordinances implementing day and time restrictions on lawn watering, restrictions on filling swimming pools, restrictions on washing vehicles, and many more."

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