The town of Medfield has issued a voluntary water ban, mandated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and effective immediately, according to Ken Feeney, the town’s Superintendent of Public Works.
“We are pumping too much water,” Feeney said. “I understand it’s very hot and sunny but we have to get our pumping down.”
Feeney said residents are currently pumping over two million gallons of water per day, which is over the one million to 1.5 million gallons of water per day that is preferred during the town's summer usage. In the winter, the town’s usage averages between 900,000 to one million gallons per day.
“We are pumping double the amount of winter use right now and you know it is all going on the lawns,” Feeney said. “For summer usage, if there was a flat line of 1.5 [million gallons per day], then it would be fine. We would be comfortable if we were in a summer use of 1.5 [gallons per day] and we are comfortable with a winter pumping of 900,000.”
The DEP mandated the water ban because of “low stream flow in the Charles River,” according to Feeney.
“There’s a certain level they want us to lower our pumping in the Charles River to,” Feeney said.
The voluntary water ban means the town will begin an odd/even water cycle. Feeney said simply that means odd number houses can water on odd days and even number houses can water on even days to avoid having everybody pumping at the same time. Feeney said making the water ban voluntary, at first, is the best option for the town because it lets residents know there is a water issue and that the town is using too much water.
“Sometimes it is just making people aware and maybe they say ‘OK, we won’t pump as much,’” Feeney said. “We’ll see what happens.”
If pumping does not decrease during the voluntary water ban then the town will enforce a mandatory ban, meaning residents become subject to fines.
“Voluntary is the preferred, best way to go at first because with mandatory you have to give out tickets and all that other stuff that we really don’t want to get into,” Feeney said. “You got to get the police involved, they’re busy enough, and the water department has to get involved giving the ticket out. It’s one of those deals where it kind of gets personal.”
Feeney said he understood that during the summer, especially with hot, dry weather, residents want to protect their lawns but cautioned them to watch how much they’re using.
“I understand there’s people that have a lot of money tied up in their landscaping but they’re still watering too much and they got to conserve water,” Feeney said. “It’s not an infinite supply of water, it’s not like it will just keep coming out of the ground.”
Tips for Water Usage During Summer:
Feeney offers residents the following tips and reminders for conserving water during the summer months to help reduce pumping.
- One inch of water is plenty: “People have to understand they have automatic sprinkler systems, which is great, but what I’ve asked them to do is rate their sprinkler systems and [see] how much water it can put out on its own in an hour,” Feeney said. “If you’ve got an inch, that’s tons of water. On an average summer that’s not too hot, that’s enough for the week, one inch.”
- Two inches for the Dog Days of Summer: “In this hot weather, maybe two inches would take better care of your lawn but that is still only watering twice a week.”
- Watering every day is too much: “Right now a lot of people are just [watering] every day,” Feeney said. “Some sprinkler systems are on during the rain, which is a shame – they should have sensor devices on them.”
- Finding leaks becomes Mission Impossible: “When you’re pumping water like this we don’t know where the water is going,” Feeney said. “It’s difficult for us to find leaks during the summer because some, if they don’t surface, we figure they are putting [the water on the lawns].”
- Green is Green: “If your lawn’s green, then it’s green,” Feeney said. “You can’t get it any greener. Take it easy and plan and be careful.”
- Pay to Pump: “The higher you pump [water], the higher you pay,” Feeney said.