As Greg Maslowe inspects the Newton Community Farm, he sees dry ground, scorched lettuce and withered trees. Extreme drought and hot temperatures endangered the health of the plants, according to Maslowe, the farm manager.
“We have to move the irrigation every hour and a half, all day, three days a week,” he said. “It definitely costs us time, which is to say money.”
From farms to golf courses, the summer drought has left Newton’s businesses with revenue shifts. For some, it’s an increase in sales. For others, like Maslowe, it poses a danger to business.
Some wonder if this is the result of climate change.
Middlesex County and Suffolk County, where Boston College’s Newton and Chestnut Hill campuses are located, are classified as being in an extreme drought state according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln drought monitor. About 25 percent of Massachusetts is under the extreme drought designation.
Precipitation levels in the city of Newton are about 9 inches lower than expected in a normal year, according to Mayor Ruthanne Fuller’s Aug. 18 newsletter. update. Newton experienced record high temperatures this summer, exceeding historical medium range 63 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit, with some days reaching the 90s.
Several months of low rainfall created conditions sufficient to classify extreme drought in Newton and other cities, according to Massachusetts. Drought Management Working Group.
Throughout the city, Newton is feeling the environmental impacts of the drought.
“We can all easily see that ponds, streams and rivers are running low, lawns and gardens are turning brown, the ground is dusty, and we know farmers’ yields are down,” Fuller wrote. “Drought also stresses our trees, making them more vulnerable to uprooting or damage during storms.”
Newton’s businesses are also feeling the heat. AJ Juarez, owner of Juarez Landscaping and Tree Services, said the drought was affecting his company’s work.
“People don’t mow their lawns because of the weather,” he said. “It’s something we didn’t expect.”
Other businesses have seen their revenue and customer base increase during the warmer months. Sterling Golf Management, the company that runs the Newton Commonwealth Golf Course, is one of them. According to Jay Miller, director of golf operations for the company, the Newton Commonwealth Golf Course saw a 17% increase in gross revenue.
“Most of our courses will have our own wells where we pump water into a large irrigation pond to irrigate the greens,” he said. “In times of drought, we already know what to do. However, the state or city might contact us, even if it’s our own well water, asking us to reduce 30 or 40 percent.”
Miller says the Newton Commonwealth Golf Course uses a process he calls “light dusting” in order to keep the course healthy but not oversaturated during a drought.
“We will spray the fairways lightly, but not use anywhere near water that we would normally use,” he said. “Our first priority is to keep the tee box nice and green.”
Miller also said other aspects of golf course operations are thriving in the heat.
“Since the onset of this heat wave and drought conditions, beginning at about 10:30 a.m., my golf cart income has been increasing,” he said. “People don’t want to push a cart or carry their bags because it’s too hot. Our sales of soft drinks, Gatorade and even beer are up sharply this year. »
Miller credits his clientele’s understanding and acceptance of weather conditions for maintaining business prosperity.
“Ninety-eight percent of golfers understand [the condition] drought,” he said. “We have had virtually no complaints this year.”
The Newton drought reminded many residents and businesses of the environmental issues associated with climate change.
Maslowe, the community farm manager since 2006, said the drought is creating more work for his staff and putting the farm’s crops at risk.
“Even our trees wilt on very hot days,” he said. “We don’t harvest tomatoes in the quantities we would have in a drought-free year and, more importantly, every time we planted carrots they didn’t sprout because the soil was so dry, and every time we planted lettuce, it was just burnt because we couldn’t water enough.
The United States Department of Agriculture appointed Middlesex County is a primary natural disaster area as a result of drought. By contrast, last July was the wettest month in state history, according to MassLive.
“It’s climate change,” Maslowe said. “It will be less predictable and more extreme for longer periods of time.”
Climate change, Maslowe said, will challenge the entire agricultural industry. Changes in CO2 levels, temperature and frequency of extreme weather can all have a significant impact on crop yield, according to compiled search by the city of Chicago.
“It’s absolutely a new reality,” Maslowe said. “Farmers are working in concert with natural systems, and we have screwed up those systems.”
Fuller urges residents to store water at home fixing dripping faucets and showerheads, testing hidden leaks in water systems, replacing flapper or flush valves in flush toilets, and choosing water-efficient fixtures.
Fuller also recommended decrease in outdoor residential water consumption watering lawns and plants in the morning before there is a higher evaporation rate, checking soil dryness before watering, raising the blade level on mowers, and using garden hoses with a shut-off nozzle.
Despite the drought conditions, Fuller assured residents that the residential water supply in Newton is plentiful.
“Newton and the other 46 communities with water and sewer provided by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority … have an adequate water supply,” Fuller wrote. “The Quabbin/Wachusett system is so large that it is able to withstand short to medium duration droughts.”