The Falmouth Select Board declared a “State of Water Supply Conservation” on Monday, July 27.
The declaration enables the town to prohibit the use of automatic sprinkler systems. Although the order is effective as of Tuesday, July 28, the town will begin enforcing it Friday, July 31. Water Superintendent Stephen D. Rafferty said the action was taken to ensure a safe and adequate water supply to all consumers.
“Overall, we are pumping a lot more water into our system this year,” Mr. Rafferty said. “Demand is up 20 percent. Some of that has to do with the heat we’re seeing, and I think some of that has to do with, because of COVID, people staying home and maybe doing a little more gardening.”
This increased usage is particularly high between 4 and 5:30 AM.
“What we’re experiencing is current operation does not provide adequate water pressure to what I call Telegraph Hill, which also includes a portion of Blacksmith Shop Road off West Falmouth Highway,” Mr. Rafferty said. “For the last couple of weeks, folks who live up that hill are unable to get water in the morning at an adequate pressure to meet their basic needs.”
Due to the increased usage in the morning, he said, the town’s storage tanks are drained by the demand.
“Almost a million and a half gallons is drawn down from the storage tanks,” Mr. Rafferty said, noting the town often cannot refill the tanks until middle or late afternoon.
The morning demand is caused by irrigation systems turning on automatically, Mr. Rafferty said, noting irrigation companies recommend watering lawns between 3 and 6 AM, which is typically when these automatic systems turn on. The town previously issued a voluntary guideline asking even-numbered homeowners to water their lawns on even days, odd-numbered homeowners on odd days.
“That really has not been very effective, as most of the irrigation controllers typically get set for the day of the week, not days of the month or even or odd days. We have noticed a peak usage on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which is the preferred time for those sprinklers to run,” he said.
In addition to publishing notice in the Falmouth Enterprise, Mr. Rafferty said, the department will contact the various neighborhood associations and sprinkler companies about the restriction. He also said the department will create door hangers, which will be used to warn homeowners after a first offense.
“We will warn homeowners they are not in compliance of what we are asking them, and will warn them that per the way the regulation is written in the bylaw, they can have their water shut off for a second offense,” he said.
The town will continue to monitor water usage, Mr. Rafferty said, and when he sees a decrease in usage, he will ask the select board to lift the restriction.
“We’ve been talking a lot during this pandemic about community care, and we’re talking about folks in parts of town, on Blacksmith Shop Road and Telegraph Hill, that don’t have water, enough water pressure in the morning to do the things they need to do because some of us want to keep our lawns and gardens green,” chairwoman Megan E. English Braga said.
Acknowledging gardening can be a passion, Ms. English Braga said the town needs to provide that basic necessity. She said the board has received emails from people who are not getting water when they turn on their taps at 5 AM.
“We’re talking about folks trying to get some basic services,” she said.
Select board member Douglas C. Brown asked if the restriction applies to people using wells. Mr. Rafferty said it does not.
“Private wells are exempted, as well as if you want to hand water your lawn,” he said.
Select board member Douglas H. Jones asked if the restriction also applies to the town fields and golf courses. Mr. Rafferty said the town fields are on private wells and fall under the exemption. The same is true of most golf courses, he said.