Reservoirs are full now, but summer can be dry

Although reservoirs are currently full, six Fairfield county towns — not including Wilton, at least for now — are subject to outdoor use water restrictions from Aquarion Water Company, with Westport and Newtown added this spring to a previous list of four towns where lawn watering was allowed just two days a week, and only at night or in the early morning hours.

Aquarion serves about 1,000 Wilton homes which are not affected as of now but they may be in the future. “We are encouraging all of our customers to start adapting,” said Aquarion spokesman Peter Fazekas.

Homes served by Aquarion are supplied by a system that draws water from a series of eight reservoirs, and also wells.  

“The system is full, which is normal for this time of year. It will draw down over the summer months,” Fazekas said. “Over the last several summers, rainfall has been well below normal during the summer months and reduced the amount of water available in these reservoirs.”

Aquarion customers in New Canaan, Stamford, Darien and Greenwich have been limited to a schedule of twice-weekly limits on outdoor water use since April of 2017, when the company adopted its own water use rules after the state Department of Public Health lifted emergency water restrictions that it had kept in place since the drought of 2016. This spring Aquarion added Westport and Newtown. Towns will be added each year, Fazekas said.

“We will be adding towns each year to those restrictions  — that’s in coordination with the town and in coordination with Department of Public Health and our regulator PURA (Public Utility Regulatory Authority),” Fazekas said.

The restrictions on “outdoor water use” are focused on sprinkler systems — not car washing, or someone standing in the yard spraying with a hose, according to Fazekas.

“The restrictions only apply to irrigation systems and hose-end sprinklers,” he said.

“Customers can use drip irrigation, they can use soaker hoses any time they like. If you have a hand-held sprayer, you can use that any time you like it.”

Aquarion also offers customers in the six towns with water use limits “high-efficiency variances” to the sprinkling rules. People can be exempted if they have an irrigation system with an EPA-approved “water sense” controller that is connected to “real time weather” information and adjusts sprinkling schedules. Such a system “knows it’s going to rain in two days” it’s not going to water the lawn, Fazekas said. “The whole point of this is we want customers to irrigate efficiently, and not waste water.”

South Norwalk

South Norwalk Electric and Water is keeping an eye on the situation, said general manager Paul Yatcko.

“Our reservoirs are around 97% [capacity] right now,” he told The Bulletin, “but we’re looking at our drought triggers and will be making decisions in the near future.”

The utility serves several hundred homes on all or parts of Belden Hill road, Old Belden Hill Road, Seir Hill Road, Old Kings Highway and some of its side streets.

Long term

While last year had more rain than the drought year, 2016, water remains a long-term concern. Aquarion’s reservoirs are mostly full — but it’s spring and that’s expected.

“They were full the year of the drought, at this time of year,” Fazekas said. “It’s the summer months that draw down the reservoirs, especially when it’s combined with no rainfall, or low rainfall.

By November 2016, water levels were below 25%.

“So, the restrictions are to keep the reservoirs as high as possible during those summer months, so there’s adequate water for human consumption and fire protection,” he said.