Streambeds in the Berkshires look a little, well, rocky these days.

And that's about the mood in municipal water departments as continued heat and lack of rain squeeze stream flows and well levels fall to startlingly low levels.

In Adams, lawns can only be watered Mondays, before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. — and that has been the case for weeks, because of historically low water supplies.

Pittsfield has instituted voluntary water-conservation measures that go into effect Wednesday.

"We're preparing for the worst. Unfortunately, that's where we're at," said John C. Barrett, superintendent of the Adams Fire District, during a recent meeting with town officials. "We're seeing things that we've never seen at our well locations."

At one well, Barrett says, a pump is finding scant water to pull. "I'm 6 feet away from it sucking air when it's pumping."

All of Massachusetts is facing a "significant drought," according to Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides, because of below-normal rainfall and high temperatures through July and August.

Theoharides is urging people to conserve water — even if that's not yet mandated, as it is in Adams. Last year at this time, 3 percent of the state was in drought. Now, it all is.

The western side of Berkshire County lies in an area called "abnormally dry" by the National Drought Mitigation Center in Nebraska, while the eastern part of the county is in "moderate drought."

The area in the Northeast affected by drought has been expanding, the center says, and the problem is growing worse.

Water supplies vary across the region, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, which runs monitoring wells.

For instance, wells in Cheshire, Pittsfield and Becket all are showing below-normal water levels. But, in Sheffield and Otis, wells tracked by the USGS show normal supplies.

River flows also are used to track supply. In Adams, a monitoring station on the Hoosic River behind Aladco is the one that is causing consternation for Barrett and his colleagues at the Adams Fire District.

Nicholas A. Johnson, the Fire District's assistant superintendent, said that while a gauge showed water to be flowing at the end of last week at about 10 cubic feet per second (cfs), it was down to 9.67 cfs Sunday.

"That's the lowest it's ever been," Johnson said. But, not as low as it could go.

On Tuesday, an online report showed the flow to be down to 9.01 cfs.

"It is dropping," Johnson said.

On the plus side, he notes that the town has abundant storage capacity in tanks and reservoirs, where it has millions of gallons of water at the ready.

"Our well levels are kind of steady," he said.

If Adams ups the restrictions to Stage 3 conservation, just one hour of watering would be allowed per week; at Stage 4, no watering is permitted.

Pittsfield's request

In Pittsfield, officials now ask residents to limit water use, after levels in the reservoir that provides Pittsfield's water supply dipped low enough to trigger Stage 1 of Pittsfield's drought-management plan.

The voluntary restrictions come in the wake of "above normal temperatures" in July and August, and after more than three months of "below normal rainfall," according to a statement released by Mayor Linda Tyer's office.

In order to preserve water for emergency fire responses, the city is asking that, beginning Wednesday, residents limit outside water use, including watering lawns and gardens, washing vehicles and filling swimming pools.

Those activities are allowed before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m., with residents in addresses ending in even numbers permitted to engage in them on even days of the month and those at addresses ending in odd numbers permitted to engage in them on odd days of the month.

Department of Public Services and Utilities Commissioner Ricardo Morales said that while the measure is voluntary, it is meant to avoid the need to impose mandatory restrictions.

"We hope the community adheres to the restrictions which are intended to conserve the water capacity throughout our city, slowing down or avoiding a move toward a mandatory restriction," he said.

River's not running

Around the region, rivers and streams are parched.

In Dalton, Robert A. Benlien, superintendent of the Dalton Water Department, has been watching the East Branch of the Housatonic River.

"They're way down," he said of streams in the Berkshires. "It's been a tough time."

Benlien planned to put Pittsfield's voluntary conservation measure into effect in Dalton, which draws its public water supply, for about 4,000 customers, from the city. Pittsfield gets some of its water supply from Dalton.

"We're actually taking back some of the water we give them," Benlien said.

Flow levels in the Housatonic River were at 86 percent of normal in July, 73 percent in June and 48 percent in May. In the Deerfield River, flows were 65 percent of normal in July, 60 percent in June and 72 percent in May.

The East Branch of the Housatonic at Coltsville, in Pittsfield, was running at 10.8 cfs. That measurement is deemed to be "much below normal," according to the state, and the same is the case with a gauging station on the river in Great Barrington and on the West Branch of the Farmington River near New Boston, a section of Sandisfield.

Up north, water supplies marginally were better, according to data provided Tuesday. The Green River in Williamstown was only "below normal," as was the Hoosic River near Willliamstown.

Runoff from precipitation simply is not replenishing streams. According to Theoharides, most areas in Massachusetts got 1 to 3 inches less rain than normal in the past two months.

"The state asks residents in every region across the Commonwealth to be very mindful of the amount of water they are using, to be proactive in reducing or eliminating outdoor water use, to reduce indoor water use, and to address plumbing leaks as soon as possible," Theoharides said in a statement.

Drought conditions stunt crops and increase the risk of wildfire.

In Adams, Barrett, the water chief, is pleading for conservation.

"We're at that point," he said. "We're tracking in a bad direction. We're breaking records on these monitors. I know that all the other rivers in town have dried up. There is no water running."

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-588-8341.

Amanda Burke can be reached at aburke@berkshireeagle.com, on Twitter @amandaburkec and 413-496-6296.