Water emergencies, usage limits in NY, CT amid severe drought

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Thursday, August 18, 2022
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Local municipalities in New York and Connecticut are declaring water emergencies and imposing water restrictions amid an ongoing drought.

NEW CITY, Rockland County (WABC) -- The impacts of climate change have been felt throughout the Northeastern U.S., with rising sea levels, heavy precipitation and storm surges causing flooding and coastal erosion.

But this summer has brought another extreme: a drought that is making lawns crispy and has farmers begging for steady rain. The heavy, short rainfall brought by the occasional thunderstorm tends to run off, not soak into the ground.

And now, local municipalities are declaring water emergencies and imposing water restrictions.

WATCH | Lee Goldberg monitors severe drought across the Tri-State

In Connecticut, Governor Ned Lamont announced a Stage 3 drought level for New London and Windham counties due to more serious conditions emerging in those areas.

All other counties in Connecticut (Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, and Tolland) will remain in Stage 2, as declared on July 14.

Stage 3 identifies a moderate drought event, potentially impacting water supplies, agriculture, or natural ecosystems. Stage 2 is a notification of an emerging drought and is intended as an awareness stage regarding the possibility of a developing drought.

The decision to move two counties to Stage 3 is based on an assessment of indicator data monitored by state and federal agencies, including precipitation, surface waters, groundwater, reservoirs, soil moisture, vegetation, and fire danger conditions.

"Connecticut continues to experience the impacts of climate change with this exceptionally dry summer, and while the entire state is experiencing drought conditions, we are seeing the most severe of those conditions right now in the areas of New London and Windham counties," Lamont said. "There are steps that residents and businesses can take to help reduce the impacts of this drought, including by voluntarily reducing water usage to only those things that are absolutely necessary and limiting the amount of water being used. Those who depend on private wells, fire or irrigation ponds, and other highly localized water resources should be especially mindful of local conditions, most particularly in places where previous droughts have had a significant impact on water supplies."

In New York, Rockland County officials declared a Stage 2 water emergency beginning Thursday, implementing mandatory restrictions on water use.

County Executive Ed Day and Commissioner of Health Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert made the announcement, saying dry conditions have led to unprecedented flow levels in the Ramapo River.

That has limited the use of Veolia's Ramapo Valley Well Field, a significant source of water for Rockland residents.

Rockland encountered a similar issue in 2016, and out of an abundance of caution -- in tandem with recommendations from water suppliers -- the county is taking proactive measures to preserve water usage.

The water saving measures, which primarily impact outdoor water usage, apply to all residents and businesses, regardless of whether the water is from a public supplier or private well.

In Connecticut, state and local governments, residents, and businesses are being asked to voluntarily take the following measures:

--Reduce, to the extent possible, the watering of lawns, recreational and athletic fields, gardens, or other landscaped areas (if watering is essential, late evening hours are best)

--Avoid burning in or near woodlands or brushlands

--Report dry fire/irrigation ponds or private wells to municipal drought liaisons or regional emergency management liaisons

--Postpone the planting of any new lawns or vegetation

--Minimize overall water use by fixing leaky plumbing and fixtures

--Take shorter showers

--Run dishwashers and clothes washing machines with full loads

--Shut off water while washing dishes, shaving, brushing teeth, and lathering up to wash hands, rather than running the water continuously

--Avoid washing vehicles or power-washing homes and other buildings

--Do not use water to clean sidewalks, driveways, and roads

--Do not use public water to fill residential swimming pools

In Rockland County, the restrictions are as follows:

Lawns

Lawns may be watered twice a week only on specified days. Properties with odd numbered addresses may water lawns during specific hours only on Mondays and Thursdays, and properties with even numbered addresses may water lawns during specific hours on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Watering hours are between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. for automatic, in-ground irrigation systems.

For manual sprinklers or hose fed irrigation, the hours are between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Gardens & Landscape

Flower gardens, vegetable gardens and landscaped areas (trees, shrubs, potted plants or other outdoor plants) can be watered during specified hours every other day of the month according to property address.

Properties with odd numbered addresses may water on odd days of the month, and properties with even numbered addresses may water on even days of the month.

Watering hours are between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. for automatic, in-ground irrigation systems. For manual sprinklers or hose fed irrigation, the hours are between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Other Restrictions:

--Nursery facilities and golf courses may exercise a water conservation plan, that is compliant with Article V of the Rockland County Sanitary Code, in lieu of the specified watering restrictions. The conservation plan must reduce average monthly usage by 10%. In addition, all water use at golf courses shall occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. except for hand-watering of greens.

--Water may not be used to wash any paved surfaces (public or private) such as streets, sidewalks, driveways, tennis courts, garages, parking areas and patios, except as required for an emergency.

--Water will not be served in restaurants unless the patron requests it.

--The use of flow-through (non-recycled) fountains, artificial waterfalls and reflecting pools is not allowed.

--Water cannot be used for flushing sewers or hydrants except for emergencies.

--All water leaks must be repaired within 48 hours.

--No bulk water supply from any source within the county may be exported outside the county.

Officials say to continue to use water efficiently indoors, with low-flow shower heads and toilets, fix any leaks, sweep rather than wash paved surfaces, run only full loads in washing machines and dish washers, don't use toilets to dispose of tissues, and consider switching to high-efficiency appliances when it's time for replacement.

Residents can notify the health department of water leaks or water being used outside the allowable schedule by filling out a complaint form on the county website.

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