Water Conservation: The Path to Resiliency
A 3-year drought that has plagued southwestern Connecticut (CT) came to the forefront in Fall 2016 when the Town Board of Selected put on a mandatory outdoor water ban and called for a 20% reduction in indoor water use in Greenwich. This action followed on the heels of the CT Department of Public Health issuing a Water Supply Emergency Order to Aquarion Water Company, which covered Greenwich, Stamford, Darien and New Canaan. This order not only banned outdoor water use but allowed for a temporary increase in the transfer of water through the southwest regional pipeline resulting in decrease in demand with an increase in available water to the region. Understanding the direct connection between surface and groundwater supplies, Greenwich made sure that private wells were also protected by extending the ban to all properties.
Spring 2017 rainfall events have been a big help in recovering from the water supply emergency. Reservoir levels in Greenwich are now full. This is great news. But we need to put this in perspective. In 2016, the reservoirs were full and spilling in February but by July, we were seeing drastic drops in stream base flow. This is nothing new. In 2007, many will recall that there was major flooding on the Byram River and elsewhere in southwest CT in both March and April. By the end of summer, the Town was asking residents to restrict water usage. It is the reason that Town, state and water company officials kept an irrigation ban in place earlier this spring. Records show that we are still below average rainfall and this remains a concern for the long term. Additionally, water demand goes from an average of 10 mgd in the winter to well over 20 mgd in summer. During a hot, dry spell, this can reach 32 mgd, mostly for lawn irrigation. This is just not sustainable, as a community we must do better.
The Greenwich Conservation Commission, in coordination with State and water company officials, has developed a long-term strategy to put us on the path to resiliency. This strategy includes institutionalizing water conservation. Similar to recycling, we need residents to practice good water conservation every day, not just during a drought. We have little control over rainfall but we do have control over demand. If we all practice water conservation every day, this will smooth out the water demand curve and avoid emergencies, even during a drought. The new water conservation strategy will include restrictions that limit irrigation to 2-days per week, and will also have a strong education and outreach component.
A key component of practicing water conservation everyday will the establishment of permanent restrictions on outdoor water irrigation. As of May 1, 2017, both Aquarion and the Town have instituted new 2-day per week restrictions. In our region, lawns do not need to be watered more than once or twice per week and they do not need to be watered before May 1st or after October 1st. Indeed, a deep watering once a week will promote deep roots and stronger, healthier lawns. Watering every day encourages shallow roots and unhealthy plants that are less resilient during the hot summer months. View 2-day per week water restrictions on the Water Supply and Conservation page.
To assist residents with this transition to a 2-day per week system and improve the overall health of their yards and landscape, the Conservation Commission will be holding a series of workshops for both homeowners and landscape contractors. Last year, the Commission began its leaf recycling program that focused on improving soil health in their lawns. This results in lawns that are healthier, need less water and nutrients, and are more resistant to insects and disease. In addition, the Commission is providing free compost bins to residents, who have excess leaves and want learn how to compost on their property. Find information about leaf recycling in Greenwich.
For more information on Greenwich's water supply, please send inquires to the Conservation Commission.