Water commission authorizes possible restrictions

Fri, 06/25/2021 - 8:15am

The New Shoreham Sewer and Water Commissions held a meeting on June 21, in a hybrid format with in-person seating at the Block Island School gymnasium and virtual participation through Zoom. It was the commissions’ first attempt at a hybrid program, and some audio kinks still need to be worked out, but it served as a sign of things to come.
Superintendent of the Block Island Water Company John Breunig discussed the possibility of other things coming down the pipe, specifically outdoor watering restrictions. The commission voted to authorize the superintendent to implement outdoor watering restrictions if he saw fit.
Just like the rest of the island, the water company sees its greatest demand during the summer. The Block Island Water Company serves the island’s commercial district, and the months of July and August account for almost fifty percent of the annual usage.
The water system relies on five active wells located in the Sands Pond wellhead protection area, with Fresh Pond as a backup source. As a sole source aquifer, Block Island’s water availability is a concern for everyone, whether in the town’s water district or not. There is a limited supply of fresh water, replenished only by rainfall.
Breunig reiterated several times during the discussion that he did not see the need to implement outdoor watering restrictions at this time, and was only working to prepare for any contingency that may arise. While several water districts on the mainland have already implemented restrictions on outdoor watering, Breunig said he did not have specific plans to do so on the island.

Outdoor watering restrictions are fairly common in many places, with municipalities instituting guidelines such as limiting usage to every other day, or only on weekdays, or only during certain hours. Many towns impose water restrictions, especially in dry conditions such as those the island has experienced this spring.

Breunig wrote to The Times: “Outdoor watering can greatly increase the water consumption at an individual account, especially automated irrigation systems. This can impact the water treatment facility’s ability to provide enough water to the public, especially during the weekends when water flows are the highest. We are asking water customers to be mindful of outdoor watering in general, but especially during the weekends.”
Breunig said that despite experiencing record water usage this spring, including record numbers for June, he does not plan on instituting water restrictions at this time. The water commission said that if he did implement any restrictions they would need to stay in place for the remainder of the summer, until Labor Day.
With conscious efforts by customers to self-regulate, especially on weekends when the demand is highest, Breunig believes there will be no need for restrictions.

The water commission has made the preparations, though, by granting Breunig the authorization. Said Breunig about the high water usage this spring: “This might be a precursor for the busiest part of the season and I want to be prepared if outdoor watering restrictions need to be implemented.”