BURLINGTON - A combination of unfortunate circumstances forced the Board of Selectmen to move forward with only allowing watering two nights a week.
Effective as soon as the vote was made this past Monday night, the new regulations will see that residents and businesses can only water from 6-10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Saturdays until further notice. The even/odd watering restriction, which went into effect May 28, was not working effectively because residents weren’t adhering to the guidelines. On top of that, the recent stretch of dry conditions with a majority of people working from home, has seen the town experience a surge of outdoor water use too dramatic for this point in the early summer season.
Department of Public Works (DPW) Director John Sanchez informed the selectmen that when the pandemic started to shut things down in March, the town was using 2 million gallons of water per day. That increased to 3.5 million gallons, and now it has come close to 5 million gallons with the harsh drought the area is facing.
“A lot of residential watering is happening,” bemoaned Sanchez. “We have had to send out over 100 first-time warning violations for not complying with the odd/even watering restriction. We are at capacity and cannot use anymore water than we are using right now.”
Sanchez further remarked the “fear” is once businesses open back to normal and the demand for water is back, “We are not going to be able to meet the demand.”
He acknowledged residents have been watering twice a day in some cases, once in the morning and once at night.
“If things continue the way they are, we will have to go to the next step,” advised Sanchez, noting the next step is a complete watering ban.
Under the two-nights per week watering restriction, the DPW estimates it “may” reduce the amount of water use by 500,000 gallons per day.
On June 16, the town experienced the highest water demand of the season. In April, the water demand was less than half of the current demand.
Both water treatment facilities are operating at their highest production levels at this time. Note that these production levels are not sustainable for the entire season as the town depends on water already stored at the Mill Pond Reservoir. In addition, the town is limited by the reduction of operating wells at the Vine Brook Treatment Plant due to 1,4 dioxane levels at wells 3, 4, and 5 (currently off-line).
The selectmen had no issue supporting the DPW’s request, and they expressed disappointment in the community’s lack of adherence to the previously imposed odd/even watering ban.
“Issuing over 100 warnings this early in the summer is disturbing,” commented Selectman Michael Runyan. “I do not know anyone who does not know how the odd/even restrictions work. People should know you only need 1-inch of water per week to adequately nourish a lawn. I am at wit’s end with all the warnings so early in the season.”
Selectman Vice Chair James Tigges advised residents on why the community is in this dire water situation.
“I want residents to be aware that we were already at a deficit because of the 1,4 dioxane situation, COVID-19, and drought, so it is all these things combined with people watering too much that has put us in this twice a week watering restriction,” Selectman Tigges explained. “You have to do what you have to do.”
Sanchez reiterated that if the town keeps up this pace of watering, “At this rate, we will have nothing left by the end of the summer season.”
The selectmen unanimously approved the watering restriction for Tuesdays and Saturdays, from 6-10 p.m.
Under all watering restrictions, rules still need to be followed or discipline will be enforced in monetary fashion.
Violators of the ban are subject to a verbal warning for the first violation, a written warning for a second violation, non-criminal fines of $50 for a third violation, and $100 for each subsequent offense.