Drought Persists, Water Ban Enacted
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Yes, it is dry! The State has declared a Level 3 Drought Condition for our region. This is the second highest level, indicating critically dry conditions and means that all non-essential outdoor water use should stop. The Select Board, in their capacity as the Town’s Water Commissioners, voted to declare a state of water conservation due to the persistent drought conditions and has issued a mandatory ban on all non-essential outdoor water use. This ban goes into effect immediately and will remain in place until further notice.
We are significantly behind normal levels of precipitation. All of June and July were extremely dry and there does not seem to be much relief in sight. Rainfall totals are almost 10 inches below normal. Local streams are very low. Lawns have turned brown, and you can hear the dryness in the woods as you walk over dry vegetation. Luckily grass can go dormant and will come back when wetter weather returns.
Our drinking water supply depends on both surface water runoff and groundwater recharge. Both sources depend on consistent rain and snowfall. We are seeing diminished capacity in our Lincoln Street Well which typically supplies about 40% of our water needs. Gravely Pond, our other major source of water, is certainly witnessing a draw down though so far not dramatically lower than what we typically see this time of year. However, with heavy irrigation use and a continued lack of rain the water level can drop quickly. And if drought conditions persist through the fall, we can run into trouble over the winter if temperatures remain cold and precipitation is locked up as snow.
To ensure an adequate water supply over the coming months the Select Board voted to impose an outdoor water ban at their meeting on August 1st. The mandatory ban applies to all non-essential outdoor water use. Hand-held watering of outdoor plants between the hours of 5PM and 8AM can continue as can the use of drip irrigation for plants, but the use of sprinklers and lawn irrigation systems are prohibited. Other examples of prohibited outdoor uses include filling pools, washing down sidewalks or driveways, and washing cars or boats with the hose running.
Violators of the ban may be fined up to $200 per day. While we will not be sending out an army of water police, violations that are observed/reported will result in tickets being issued. Residents with concerns can contact the DPW. In the past, compliance with water bans has been high and we certainly hope this will be the case this time around. We all share a responsibility to do our part to conserve water to ensure we have drinking water for our interior domestic needs.
There are many ways to conserve water inside the home as well. Measures like only running dish and clothes washers when full, not running the faucet when brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers all help to lower water consumption. Toilets do not need flushing after every use. If not already in place, low flow fixtures should be installed in homes.
Manchester is fortunate to have a robust water system but as the current drought persists, we are wise to be cautious in our use of water. Last summer it seemed it could not stop raining. This summer is the opposite. It is highly likely we will experience these types of swings in weather patterns more and more as the impacts of climate change advance. This is one reason why the Water Resources Protection Task Force is hard at work investigating how to make our water system resilient to climate change. Their recommendations will be coming starting in the Fall. While we hope to have broken the drought by then we know that this won’t be the only dry summer going forward.
Please help the Town conserve water by doing your part to consume less.