New England Drought Information

Science Center Objects

Droughts are among the most costly hydrologic hazards in the United States. They are generally slow in developing, frequently occur over a long period of time, and can affect large areas and populations. The severity of a hydrologic drought is not always obvious until these water supplies are seriously depleted.

The U.S. Geological Survey New England Water Science Center network of long-term continuous record stations is important in measuring the severity of an existing or potential drought and making projections of subsequent drought conditions.

The New England Water Science Center continuously monitors the status of surface water in New England's principal rivers, reservoirs, and aquifers to compare existing streamflows, reservoir storage, and groundwater levels with normal and extreme recorded values.


Droughts do not have the same meaning or significance to all people. No generally accepted definition is adequate, nor is one practical, because drought is the result of many different factors. In general, "drought is a condition of moisture deficit sufficient to have an adverse effect on vegetation, animals, and man over a sizeable area" (Warrick, 1975)a. Three common definitions are:

  1. Meteorological drought: "A period of abnormally dry weather sufficiently prolonged for the lack of water to cause serious hydrologic imbalance in the affected area" (Huschke, 1959)b.
  2. Agricultural drought: "A climatic excursion involving a shortage of precipitation sufficient to adversely affect crop production or range production" (Rosenberg, 1979)c.
  3. Hydrologic drought: "A period of below average water content in streams, reservoirs, aquifers, lakes, and soils" (Yevjevich and others, 1977)d.


a Warrick, R.A., 1975, Drought hazard in the United States: A research assessment: Boulder, Colorado, University of Colorado, Institute of Behavorial Science, Monograph no. NSF/RA/E-75/004, 199 p.

b Huschke, R.E., ed., 1959, Glossary of meteorology: Boston, American Meteorological Society, 638 p.

c Rosenberg, N.J., ed., 1979, Drought in the Great Plains- Research on impacts and strategies: Proceedings of the Workshop on Research in Great Plains Drought Management Strategies, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, March 26-28: Littleton, Colorado, Water Resources Publications, 225 p.

d Yevjevich, Vujica, Hall, W.A., and Salas, J.D., eds., 1977, Drought research needs, in Proceedings of the Conference on Drought Research Needs, December 12-15, 1977: Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, 276 p.



USGS Drought WaterWatch streamflow maps. 

The data used to produce these maps are provisional and have not been reviewed or edited. They may be subject to significant change.

  • 7-day average streamflow conditions map of New England in hydrologic units. The map displays conditions adjusted for this time of the year. USGS sites having at least 30 years of record are used. The map is updated daily.
  • Current real-time streamflow conditions map for New England stations. The map displays current streamflow conditions compared to historical streamflow for the day of the year. Only streamgages with at least 30 years of record are used.
  • Latest month average streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the month of the year map. The map displays monthly streamflow conditions at individual streamgages.
  • Latest month below normal streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the month of the year. The map displays monthly streamflow conditions at individual streamgages.

Monthly hydrologic conditions in New England

National Water Dashboard for New England


USGS Open File Report 93-642: Drought

Drought and climate . evapotranspiration . fires

Management of water resources for drought conditions

More USGS Drought related publications are under "Publications" tab.