Water Resources Protection Task Force
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The Water Resources Protection Task Force (Task Force) was created by the Select Board last December to help the Town assess its drinking water resources and to recommend action steps that will ensure the Town has an adequate supply of clean water for domestic consumption for many decades to come. A group of over 20 dedicated volunteers under the leadership of Steve Gang has been collecting background information and new data as they get up to speed on numerous aspects of our water system.
The last time the Town undertook a similar effort was over 30 years ago. The main result of this earlier effort was the completion of the “Horsley Witten Water Resources Protection Plan”, an analysis of our water sources compiled by the consultants of the same name along with a series of recommendations the Town could take to better protect our water supplies. Many but not all of the recommendations were implemented. One of the tasks of the new group is to revisit the old report to see which of the recommendations that were not implemented might still be worthwhile to pursue as well as develop new recommendations. In fact, Scott Horsley, one of the original authors, has been retained by the Task Force to assist in this and other tasks.
Six subcommittees of the Task Force are working on specific areas. A summary of the six and the focus of their work is as follows:
Usage and Demand for Drinking Water: Historic and current trends; indoor vs outdoor use; grey vs black water use; pricing (rate) options; conservation opportunities
Supply and Sources of Drinking Water: Watershed protection; potential new sources; regional options
Effects of Climate Change: Trends and Projections (temperature, precipitation, sea level rise impacts) case studies from other communities
Quality and Contaminants: Treatment levels; PFAS, potential for other contaminants; short/long term solutions
Citizen Awareness and Engagement: Surveys; document citizen concerns; assess willingness to make various tradeoffs
Town Responsibilities, Authority and Accountability: Who should be doing what? Best practices for sustainable management
Staff support for the Task Force is being provided by Grants and Special Projects Coordinator Sue Croft. DPW Director Chuck Dam, who is well versed in water system management and Town Engineer Nate Desrosiers are providing valuable input and guidance to the Task Force. In addition to Scott Horsley, one of the premier water experts in our region, other consultants are being utilized as necessary.
One new consultant is being brought in to help verify where the water comes from that feeds our main reservoir, Gravelly Pond. Using thermo-imaging, we should get a better picture of ground water travel into the pond which in turn, will help guide future watershed protection efforts and contamination risk reduction.
The Town also is utilizing the EPA “CREAT” Tool (Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness) which is helping us assess impacts on our water system that we can expect as climate change continues to advance.
The Task Force continues to hold public meetings as they advance their work over the coming months. They will be providing updates to the Select Board at regular meetings ultimately providing various recommendations to the Board that aim to ensure a reliable, high quality supply of drinking water for decades to come.