Falmouth residents soon will be restricted to watering their lawns on certain days of the week in an effort to conserve the lower-than-normal town water supply.
As its meeting on Monday, April 26, the select board approved the restrictions based on a proposal by the department of public works.
“We’re hoping the restrictions eliminate 50 percent of the water demand and conserves a couple million gallons of water,” Water Superintendent Cathal O’Brien said.
Starting Saturday, May 1, odd-numbered homes will be permitted to use automatic sprinklers on their property on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and even-numbered homes will be permitted to use sprinklers on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. No one may use lawn sprinklers on Mondays.
The town hopes the restrictions will avoid an all-out watering ban that would be triggered by a water shortage, akin to last July’s ban on all automatic sprinklers. Water usage is doubled or even tripled due to use by summer tourists and second homeowners, Mr. O’Brien said. There were also drought conditions, leading to the first water ban in Falmouth since the 1950s.
The shortage of available water is a confluence of circumstances. Mr. O’Brien said the Fresh Pond well is still out of service, but he is working with the state Department of Environmental Protection to get it back online. Usually Falmouth can tap into the Upper Cape Regional Water Supply via a water tank at Joint Base Cape Cod, but it is being repainted and is not in service yet. Lastly, a shortage of precipitation this winter and spring has left the town’s main water reservoir, Long Pond, much lower than normal for the time of year.
Mr. O’Brien had a few modifications to his proposal since first presenting it to the select board after receiving feedback from local irrigation installation companies.
He suggested eliminating the 8 AM and 8 PM ban.
“I think we can get more people to comply the simpler we make the restriction,” he said. “Simply, today is not your day,” he said.
He also suggested, and the board agreed, to exempt newly installed lawns and plantings.
“They only need to be watered lightly, but it needs to be done frequently. It will allow for all the new construction going on around town,” he said.
Additional new regulations include prohibiting washing sidewalks, patios and driveways, except by businesses that need to do so for health and safety reasons. Pistol grip nozzles with automatic shutoff are required for all hoses used for washing cars and all hoses and all hoses at dockside facilities.
Select board member Douglas H. Jones asked if a ban is needed during heaviest water usage, which is between 5 and 6 AM.
Mr. O’Brien said he would ask water customers to spread out their watering times to avoid the dip in water pressure in the early morning.
Falmouth Department of Public Works Director Peter M. McConarty said he is hoping for compliance from residents and companies.
“I am asking the public to help out and abide by regulations, because if we continue to not get storm water in to recharge the system, Cathal and I will be back to the board in a few months asking for an all-out ban. We really do not want to do that,” he said.