FROM THE TOWN ADMINSTRATOR’S DESK
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Providing a clean, plentiful supply of fresh drinking water to every household in Town is a high priority for our Department of Public Works. Manchester is fortunate to have two good sources of water – the Lincoln Street well located next to the Pedestrian Bridge and Gravely Pond and the springs that feed it up on the Manchester/Hamilton line. These two sources typically meet the needs for potable water as well irrigation purposes without much stress.
However, during extended dry spells, Gravely Pond, which is our primary source, struggles to recoup from week after week of heavy drawdowns. The level of the pond typically drops during the summer after its peak level in the early spring but during droughts, the level drops even more to the point that we worry about having a sufficient supply to get us all the way through until the following spring when snowmelt and rains typically recharge the aquifer.
During the drought of 2016 we enacted a water use restriction, limiting outdoor water use to hand held devises only in the early morning and evening times. Residents responded well as we saw an appreciable drop in water consumption that slowed the decline in water levels at Gravely Pond. With the water conservation measures people followed we got through the drought without needing to take more drastic rationing measures.
While we are not officially under drought conditions at this time, the state is monitoring closely the lower than normal precipitation levels and the higher temperatures we are experiencing. Gravely Pond is only a foot higher than it was at this same time during the 2016 drought. Depending on the weather patterns over the next few weeks and the predictions for August, we may need to implement outdoor watering restrictions in order to conserve our supply of drinking water.
Taking steps now to conserve water can help us avoid instituting a mandatory use restriction. Residents can incorporate water-saving tips like these into their daily routines:
- Limit lawn watering, and choose native plants or turf that need less water;
- Sweep driveways, patios and other outdoor areas with a broom rather than hosing them off;
- Take shorter showers and use water-saving showerheads;
- Turn off water while brushing teeth or shaving;
- Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes; and
- Fix leaks in faucets, toilets, pipes, and appliances.
Last year the Selectmen implemented a new tiered set of water rates that provides a financial incentive to use less water. There are 6 tiers with each successive tier having a higher charge per unit (100 cubic feet or 748 gallons) of water consumed than the previous tier. High consumers of water pay a premium for the higher amount of water they use. 50% of all households fall within the first two tiers and do not trigger the higher premium rates, consuming a maximum of some 50,000 gallons a year or about 140 gallons a day. Town wide annual water consumption exceeds 178 million gallons.
The water rates have been increasing between 3-4% yearly for the last few years as we raise the needed funds to help pay for pipe replacements and other system improvements. The rates are increasing 3.75% this year. For a typical household this is an increase of about $20/year for water and just under $50/year for sewer. Even at the new rates we are charging less than a penny per gallon for most users.
Water is a critical natural resource – please use it wisely!