Getting Answers: water restrictions implemented in some communities
SOUTHWICK, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - With most of western Massachusetts facing mild drought conditions, three local communities have implemented water use restrictions. We found out what this means for people living there and why neighboring towns aren’t under the same restrictions.
A lush lawn in Southwick isn’t the norm right now. One home we saw in town has an irrigation well, so it’s not subject to the town’s water use restrictions.
“Some of the irrigated lawns that are used to being watered daily are really stunting. They’re turning yellow,” said Scott Lamon, owner of Tynic Landscaping.
Lamon has seven mowing crews, but with Southwick’s current water restrictions limiting non-essential water use, like lawn sprinklers, they haven’t been as busy.
“So, we mow hundreds of lawns a week. We’re probably going to skip about a third of them this week, a third next week. The water ban is really slowing down grasses and lawns,” Lamon noted.
Southwick’s restrictions are triggered when the stream flow of the Westfield River falls to a certain level, so one Southwick resident asked: “Why isn’t Westfield in a water restriction then?”
Easthampton and Northampton are the only other local municipalities facing water restrictions. The reason why has long-confused many residents.
“Someone had to comment ‘Oh, they don’t have to follow the restrictions.’ It’s unfortunate. People sometimes don’t look into things before they speak,” said former Southwick Selectman Joseph Deedy.
“Certainly, people are not too happy about it sometimes, but once we explain the situation that we’re in, hopefully they understand and will follow the conditions,” added Southwick DPW Director Randy Brown.
Brown said it all has to do with municipalities’ permits with the state and communities with no restrictions likely do not have their permits with Mass D.E.P. up to date.
“Our permit was updated 2014. Other communities in the area have not had their permit renewed since that time, so ours was done in 2014. At that time, these conditions for restrictions are in place,” Brown noted.
The other trigger for Southwick’s water restrictions is when the state’s Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs declares a Level 1 or higher drought.
“Droughts used to be much less frequent, perhaps once a decade or once in two decades. Over the last 10 years or so, we’ve been seeing a lot more of these periods of dryness,” said Vandana Rao, chair of the drought management task force for the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Rao said we can get used to these current dry conditions.
“With climate change, what’s predicted here for Massachusetts is experiencing more short-term droughts, more droughts in general, so this could be an indication of how things will be,” Rao explained.
She said everyone must be mindful about their water use, whether their town is under restrictions or not, and find ways to limit outdoor use.
“If we could, put in rain barrels in our gardens to capture rainwater when it does come and use that instead,” Rao added.
While indoors, watch out for small household leaks that can waste 180 gallons a week. Toilets are often the culprit.
“Just changing a little bit of our behavior and mindset will go a long way, especially since we don’t know how long this drought will last,” Rao said.
Lamon said there are some ways to help your lawn withstand drought.
“One is cut it high, so we call it ‘cut it high and let it fly.’ Grass should be at least four inches during times of drought,” Lamon explained.
Also, mow your lawn less. The longer the shoot, the deeper the root, and don’t remove the clippings. They can also help the lawn retain moisture.
“It might be tough to look at your lawn that’s going dormant. It’s not dead. It’s going dormant. It might be challenging, but if everybody follows those rules, we should have enough water to get us through the summer,” Lamon said.
Not following the restrictions in Southwick will cost you $50 for the first offense and $100 after that. The Southwick DPW said that, so far, 85 warning letters have been sent out.
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