Dig a little deeper in the well

There’s an old Gospel hymn that comes to mind in this Fairfield County season of worsening drought: You’ve got to dig a little deeper in the well.

Maybe a lot deeper.

Permits for replacing existing wells with deeper ones are on the rise in Wilton, according to data from the town’s health department, which oversees well water.

In all of 2015, eight new wells, all replacements, were applied for, and in 2016 to date there have been 10 new wells, according to Barry Bogle, health director. Seven of those new wells were for new homes, while the remaining three were for wells that had run dry, or in one case, collapsed.

The permits cost $150.

“It has always been bad,” Bogle said of the drought conditions, which have been going on for the better part of a decade. “They’re seeking a new source, as opposed to going through the season with a low-yield well.”

Despite the recent rainfall, South Norwalk Electric and Water has reached the second stage in its drought response plan, the Drought Watch. The continued lack of significant beneficial rain coupled with a high water demand has the agency’s reservoir levels at 41%, triggering the Drought Watch. The agency has customers in the Silvermine section of Wilton.

With drought conditions persisting and too little precipitation forecast for the foreseeable future, Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino signed an order on Sept. 29 declaring a temporary 30-day public water supply emergency for four Fairfield County towns served by Aquarion Water Co. (AWC): Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, and New Canaan. Aquarion’s water issues are also affecting several towns in nearby Westchester County, N.Y., that are also served by the company: Rye, Rye Brook and Port Chester. DPH is working closely with the New York State Health Department and the Westchester County Health Department to ensure an adequate water supply for all seven towns.

The rarely used declaration was requested by Aquarion to allow it to divert water from other sources to the four Connecticut towns that are facing a substantial depletion of their public water supply as a result of ongoing drought conditions. DPH, in consultation with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA), determined the declaration was necessary to prevent further depletion of the water supply.

The Connecticut Interagency Drought Workgroup issued a drought advisory for the state earlier this summer, and Connecticut’s drought condition has been classified by the National Weather Service as moderate to severe. The continued lack of rainfall in the forecast is expected to contribute to this drought condition.  

South Norwalk Electric and Water is strongly requesting that its customers practice conservation, with an overall goal of a 15% reduction in water use. It is urging customers to eliminate outdoor lawn watering with irrigation and sprinkler systems. Some other actions customers can take include not running the tap while brushing teeth and shaving, reducing time in the shower and volume of bath water, and cleaning sidewalks with a broom instead of with a hose.

Stop the irrigation, especially if it is on a separate well, said Russ DeGrazia, owner of  R.A. DeGrazia Well Co. in Danbury, Brookfield and New Milford.

“Absolutely, the first good rain, your grass is going to come right back,” DeGrazia said, pointing out how it is not necessary to irrigate lawns in these conditions.

The main problem homeowners are having is that their wells are the old-fashioned farm-type and go down only about 50, 80 or 100 feet.

“Your well is probably dry, because they are shallow, especially if your neighbor has a 300-footer,” DeGrazia said.

“We call it the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and the deeper well gets the water.”

The dry spell started several years ago, so the drought is the effect of accumulative rain loss.

“We had a tough winter, with no snow, and it grew greater,” he said.

He is getting calls from customers who made inquiries a couple of years ago, and now think the time is right to dig a new well. He also does a lot of business with broken well lines and bad pumps.

But right now, DeGrazia said, “everyone is praying for rain.”