Concern mounts over drought in Wilton

Photo of J.D. Freda
Town officials are asking residents to conserve more water as a drought ensues. Despite the ongoing effects, NIDIS measured streamflow in the Norwalk River, pictured, as above average.

Town officials are asking residents to conserve more water as a drought ensues. Despite the ongoing effects, NIDIS measured streamflow in the Norwalk River, pictured, as above average.

Hearst File Photo

WILTON — A particularly wet Tuesday could not quell the unease of town officials who are dealing with the effects of a drought that has lasted over a month.

“We are very concerned about the ongoing drought,” First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said Tuesday. “Today and tomorrow’s rainfall will not be enough to make up for the lack of rain over the last several months.”

In response to the lack of precipitation, Vanderslice said the town needs to remain mindful of its water usage.

The most important thing residents can do is use less water Vanderslice said.

To better drive home that integral point, town workers will place signs around town in the coming days to remind residents to conserve as much water as they can.

The town is asking residents to follow a list of effective strategies posted on its homepage. They include watering lawns, recreational and athletic fields, gardens, or other landscaped areas less; taking shorter showers; running washing machines and dishwashers with full loads and postponing planting any new lawns or vegetation for the time being.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce said the majority of Wilton’s athletic fields are “burnt out,” even the ones that don’t have a history of doing so during a dry spell.

“The fields are pretty much fried,” Pierce said Wednesday.

The drought has stifled the town’s ability to irrigate many of its fields with only some — such as Allen's Meadows — being tended to at 50 percent capacity. Pierce said they also haven't been able to sod any of the fields, a typical practice for his department.

While Tuesday provided a “good soaking” Pierce said, the fields will need more where that came from. “They have been really affected, and we need help pretty quickly.”

Pierce, who first came to Wilton in 1991, said he has never seen conditions like this.

Vanderslice acknowledged that the town and county remain at a Stage 2 Drought Level, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS).

According to the system, 100 percent of Fairfield County residents are affected by the the ongoing drought with 87 percent of Connecticut getting below average rainfall this month. Parts of South Wilton are also considered at greater risk of maintaining Stage 2 status longer than even some of its neighboring towns, such as Ridgefield and Weston.

Fairfield County had about 1.33 inches of rain in August, which is about 3.12 inches less than usual. It’s had about 3.76 inches this summer, which is about 4.96 inches less than normal, according to the state drought info.

Despite this, the streamflow of Wilton’s section of the Norwalk River has been recorded as above average as of Sept. 1.

The Connecticut’s Drought Preparedness and Response Plan states that agencies coordinated through the Interagency Drought Work Group will work with each municipality on drought mitigation strategies and best management practices for use in the planning, development and operation of water-intensive facilities.

The town, concurrently, will be working with water utilities providers and heavy water users in town to build a strategy.

Aquarion Water Company, which services only a percentage of Wilton homes, already limits irrigation to twice a week in nearby Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Stamford, Greenwich, Fairfield and Newtown. The schedule started following a drought in 2016, said Peter Fazekas, Aquarion’s director of corporate communications.

He said the company hasn’t received any notice of service issues from its Wilton customers.

South Norwalk Electric and Water, which also services a portion of Wilton, could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.