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Despite rains, drought conditions persist

JULIE LANE PHOTO Heavy rains haven’t yet made for recovery from drought conditions on Shelter Island, according to Water Advisory Committee members Ken Pysher (left) and Gregory Toner.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Heavy rains haven’t yet made for recovery from drought conditions on Shelter Island, according to Water Advisory Committee members Ken Pysher (left) and Gregory Toner.

The rain may have beenconstant some days in the past several weeks and it did make a dent in well water levels, but given the drought conditions this summer, readings are still low.
That’s the message from Water Advisory Committee members Gregory Toner and Ken Pysher who report the “situation is slightly better” than in readings during the previous couple of months.

The two men compile readings furnished by the United States Geological Survey and provide the historical data necessary to put it into context.

The U.S. Drought Monitor released September 15 shows 37 percent of the northeast experiencing drought conditions that vary from moderate to severe or extreme.

Another 30 percent of the area in the northeast is “abnormally dry,” according to the information furnished by the national monitor.

Long Island remains a part of the area considered to be experiencing a severe drought.

Still there are some positive signs in the aquifer levels, although indications are that the aquifer remains at a low level versus its overall history, Mr. Toner and Mr. Pysher said in their report.

Three wells — Rocky Point/Belvedere, Brandy/Lilliput and Hay Beach — moved up in their median values over sea level, but two of those wells are shallow. Median values of heights over sea level for the other 10 test wells were lower than they had been in August. Most of the drop was by less than half a percentage point, but a few were down by more than 6 percent.

On the hopeful side, water levels at test wells that represent what the men call “the big four” — Manhansett, Manwaring, Congdon and Goat Hill — showed a combined 27 percent increase compared with a 17 percent increase in August. Those wells provide slower recharge to the aquifer because their locations result in water having a longer distance to move from the surface of the land to the aquifer.

Mr. Toner and Mr. Pysher called that “a good sign, one we should hope will continue.”
More recent rains and the drop in water usage now that the heavy summer tourist season has abated also provide reasons for optimism, according to the report.

While the WAC leans toward median levels for comparison, it also provides month-to-month tallies, showing readings at eight test wells improving from what they were in August.

Those that were lower in September were Menantic Road, Deer Park Lane, Little Ram, Dering Harbor and Goat Hill. The Little Ram well dropped by 20 percent from its August reading, but that well tends to vary a lot month-to-month, according to the report.

Heavy rains in early August also provided a bump to that month’s readings making the September numbers a possible correction to a more realistic month-to-month comparison, the men said.

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