Per­ma­nent re­stric­tions emerg­ing

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Front Page - By John Burge­son

EAS­TON — The reser­voirs are full and rain­fall has been am­ple. Yet the Aquarion Wa­ter Co., which pro­vides wa­ter to a swath of Fair­field County towns, has rolled out per­ma­nent wa­ter con­ser­va­tion reg­u­la­tions for parts of its ser­vice foot­print.

Com­pany of­fi­cials say that in the com­ing years, just about all of the 625,000 peo­ple in 52 cities and towns in Con­necti­cut served by Aquarion will see sim­i­lar re­stric­tions, un­der which lawn- wa­ter­ing is lim­ited to two days a week.

With so much wa­ter, why the big con­ser­va­tion push? It’s sim­ple — rain­fall isn’t as re­li­able in re­cent years and there have been

too many sum­mers of late in which the wa­ter com­pany has seen reser­voir lev­els drop to un­com­fort­able lev­els.

Com­bine that with the fact that there are many more acres of grass be­ing ir­ri­gated now, and you have all the ingredients for a wa­ter emer­gency, of­fi­cials say.

“In 2016, we were down to a 45- day sup­ply in Green­wich and Stam­ford,” said com­pany spokesman Peter Fazekas. “And in­stead of get­ting a steady al­lot­ment of rain, we’ll get a lot on one day, fol­lowed by weeks with no rain at all.”

Too many lawns:

For now, the twice- aweek re­stric­tions are in place for Darien, Green­wich, New Canaan, New­town, West­port and Stam­ford. Even- num­bered homes are al­lowed out­door wa­ter use on Sun­days and Wed­nes­days, odd num­bered homes on Satur­days and Tues­days. And wa­ter­ing is only al­lowed be­tween mid­night and 10 a. m. and 6 p. m. to mid­night.

In other words, if you live in those com­mu­ni­ties, you shouldn’t be wa­ter­ing at all be­tween 10 a. m. and 6 p. m., and there’s no wa­ter­ing al­lowed on Mon­days, Thurs­days and Fri­days.

As for why these towns were sin­gled out, of­fi­cials say these com­mu­ni­ties have a lot of lawn ir­ri­gat­ing go­ing on, com­bined with nearby reser­voirs that are rel­a­tively shal­low and are de­pleted quickly.

“The reser­voirs that serve Bridge­port and its sur­round­ing towns have a much greater ca­pac­ity — the sys­tem was de­signed to feed all of the heavy man­u­fac­tur­ing plants that were op­er­at­ing through most of the 20th cen­tury,” said Bruce Sil­ver­stone, a com­pany spokesman.

Aquarion is work­ing with ir­ri­ga­tion com­pa­nies to en­cour­age the use of so­phis­ti­cated “smart” wa­ter­ing sys­tems — some of which even mon­i­tor the weather fore­cast so lawns aren’t wa­tered when rain is im­mi­nent. These can cut wa­ter use 40 per­cent or more, Fazekas said.

Drought of 2016

The im­pe­tus for this pol­icy change came from the 2016 drought, a year when rain­fall amounts were sev­eral inches be­low nor­mal — and a year that fol­lowed a win­ter when there was very lit­tle snow­fall.

“We had to im­pose in 2016 emer­gency re­stric­tions in Green­wich, Darien, New Canaan and Stam­ford,” Fazekas said. “No out­door wa­ter use at all — you couldn’t even wash your car.”

That sum­mer, Aquarion of­fi­cials say, it was all hands on deck. A tem­po­rary wa­ter line was in­stalled along the Mer­ritt Park­way right- of- way to shunt wa­ter from the Bridge­port- area reser­voirs.

“If you look at those four towns, 40 per­cent of their an­nual wa­ter use is for lawns,” Fazekas said. “So dur­ing the sum­mer months, that fig­ure is more like 70 per­cent. We had to pro­tect the sup­ply for hu­man con­sump­tion and fire pro­tec­tion.”

Rain­fall im­proved in early 2017 and the tight re­stric­tions were lifted. The tem­po­rary pipe was re­moved too.

“Dur­ing that emer­gency, we saved about a bil­lion gal­lons,” Fazekas said. “At first, com­pli­ance wasn’t where we wanted it — there were about 2,000 vi­o­la­tors. But af­ter they were told that they were wa­ter­ing when they shouldn’t, nearly all co­op­er­ated.”

Tow­ing the wa­ter line

There is a con­nec­tion be­tween the Bridge­port re­gion reser­voirs and the ones that serve Stam­ford and Green­wich. It’s a 36inch pipe that was in­stalled in the early 1990s. That line is now be­ing up­graded with im­proved pumps. This pipe will be sis­tered with a sec­ond 36- inch pipe in the com­ing years, of­fi­cials say.

Get­ting home­own­ers to com­ply with wa­ter re­stric­tions usu­ally in­volves a friendly note to the of­fender.

“Usu­ally, that’s all that’s needed,” said Darien First Se­lect­man Jayme Steven­son. “And just about all of our peo­ple have co­op­er­ated.”

She said some towns have passed lo­cal wa­ter or­di­nances, which in­volve fines, al­though most towns haven’t taken that step. Green­wich, for ex­am­ple, can im­pose fines, while Darien can­not.

Still, both town and wa­ter of­fi­cials say they have lim­ited le­gal op­tions if vi­o­la­tors in­sist on soak­ing their lawns. But wa­ter com­pa­nies do have the right to shut off wa­ter to fla­grant vi­o­la­tors.

“That’s not a step that we want to take, nor is it one that we have taken,” Sil­ver­stone said.

Of­fi­cials also would like to see con­ser­va­tion on the part of home­own­ers who use well wa­ter to con­serve, too.

“Wells are a lot deeper than they used to be, and we’re all tap­ping into the same aquifer,” Sil­ver­stone said. “And a lot of peo­ple had their wells run dry in 2016 — a huge hard­ship.”

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

The 488- acre Eas­ton Lake reser­voir in Eas­ton.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.