Strict Water Restrictions Are Eased in Boston Area

Aug. 26, 2002
For residents eager to soothe their drought-shriveled gardens, the order to ease the water ban couldn't come soon enough.

Many restrictions remain in place, though, and anyone caught using an outdoor sprinkler could still face a $50 fine as Wayland and other towns in the western suburbs struggle with a dry spell that has led to water bans throughout the region.

As of tomorrow, residents once again will be allowed to use hand-held hoses for watering lawns, washing cars, and other forms of outdoor recreational activity.

The water level in one of Wayland's two tanks dropped from 14.6 feet to 1 foot in a matter of days earlier this month, leading Fire Chief Michael Murphy to declare a state of water emergency on Aug. 12.

The use of outdoor sprinklers and hand-held watering devices was banned until last Tuesday, when the Board of Water Commissioners voted to allow the use of hand-held watering devices again.

''We'll see how the water level looks for a while, and if it remains stable, we'll go back to odd/even watering again,'' said Joel Goodmonson, chairman of the Water Commissioners.

But even as it voted to lift the full ban, the Board of Water Commissioners expressed concern about what members characterized as a great deal of noncompliance.

At 99 gallons per day, Wayland residents have one of the highest per capita rates of water use in the state, the commissioners said. The state Department of Environmental Protection recommends that individual users not exceed a limit of 80 gallons per day.

Due to the heat wave, the lack of rain, and excessive outdoor water use, residents frequently have used more than 160 and even as much as 180 gallons of water per day this summer, said Goodmonson.

''It will take a combination of public education, water conservation measures, and increased prices to achieve the goal of significantly reducing the amount of water Wayland residents use on a daily basis,'' said Donald J. Tata, a consulting engineer from Westborough who works for the Town of Wayland.

Increasing prices might be the most effective way to combat excessive residential water use, the water commissioners said.

''Currently, residents who consume more than 2,000 cubic feet of water per month are only charged $3 per every 100 cubic feet of water they use, which is one of the lowest rates in the area,'' said Robert Duffy, one of the water commissioners.

Sudbury residents who use a comparable amount of water are charged $9 per 100 cubic feet, he said.

''We've seen that people in other communities did not stop high water use until there was a rate increase,'' Goodmonson said. ''We'll need a rate increase, too, in order to enforce conservation.

''Sudbury saw they needed to charge $9 a unit to force usage down, and the demographics here and in Sudbury are not that different.''

Residents will have an opportunity to discuss a proposed increase in water rates at a public meeting with the Water Board on Sept. 12.

Beginning this week, the Board of Water Commissioners will expand its efforts to increase public awareness of the need to conserve water. In addition to posting notices on the town Web site, the local cable TV channel, and in the local newspaper, the Water Department will add more signs around town, said Don Hollender, the Water Department superintendent.

Hollender said he will place three additional signs in the southern part of town, as well as one at the Town Hall and another at the Wayland Public Library. Signs urging residents to comply with restrictions are already in place at Dudley Pond beach, the landfill, and a number of intersections around town.

Goodmonson said the Department of Environmental Protection suggested making toilet dams, sink aerators, and low-flow showerheads available to the public at no cost. All three devices can have a measurable effect in saving water, he said.

Hollender said he will have about 50 of the water conservation devices ready for distribution to town residents within the next few weeks.

Conservation measures and fines can be helpful in reducing the amount of water residents normally use, Goodmonson said, but there has to be a basic change in the way people think about water.

''People think we've got plenty of water and it's cheap,'' he said. ''And if it costs so little that it falls below the radar screen, people don't think about it. But the bottom line is, everyone in town needs to use a little less water.''

Source: Boston Globe

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