For Immediate Release: August 11, 2022
Level 3- Critical Drought in Our Region
LONGMEADOW (August 11, 2022) – Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) has declared a Level 3 – Critical Drought in the Connecticut River Valley. During the last several weeks, we have seen impacts on our municipal water system due to excessive demand for water. This is primarily due to irrigation of lawns. With rain levels much below normal over the past five months, the potential for drought-exacerbated fires is steadily increasing. The Department of Public Works and the Fire Department have reported that the Town will need an approximate 20% reduction (750,000 gallons per day) of water usage in order to maintain the level and pressure of public water supply needed for emergency management.
In response to our ongoing drought status, the Town of Longmeadow is asking residents and other landowners to engage in the following water conservation measures on a voluntary basis:
- Limit non-essential outdoor use. At a minimum, limit irrigation to three days per week on alternating days:
- Odd number homes are asked to water on odd number days
- Even number homes are asked to water on even number days.
- Do not water during prime heat hours of 9a - 5p. Please irrigate during evening and early morning hours.
If the Town is unable to achieve a workable solution to excessive water demand with these voluntary measures, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection may authorize a State of Emergency which would trigger mandatory conservation efforts and prohibit non-essential outdoor water use altogether.
- Adjust sprinklers to water only grass areas and not impervious surfaces such as streets, driveways and walkways.
- Keep your mower blades sharp so they don’t tear the grass. Mow grass to a height of 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Taller grass shades the roots and soil surface, which helps reduce the amount of water that is lost to evaporation.
- Use sprinklers that spray low large drops versus high fine ones.
- Use hand-held soakers for small trees, shrubs and plants.
- Use shut off nozzles on hoses and repair leaky hoses and fittings.
- About 1 inch of water per week (including precipitation) is adequate for maintaining a healthy lawn. If there has been 1 inch of rain in the week, you don’t need to water. Use a can or inexpensive rain gauge to help determine the amount of water applied by the sprinkling system and supplied by rainfall.
- Don’t use a fixed schedule for lawn watering. Apply water only when it is needed. Infrequent watering allows lawns to develop deep roots that require less water. Over watering can promote diseases and affect the health of the lawn and causes the grass to develop shallow roots which can be susceptible to pests and disease.
- A simple test for determining if grass needs water is to walk on the lawn and if you leave foot prints, it may be time to water the lawn.
- Using a spade or gardening tool to check soil conditions 2 to 6 inches below the surface can provide information on soil moisture and the need to water.
- A good soaking once or twice a week is better than watering every day. Allowing the soil to dry between watering will allow the roots to grow to greater depths and help make turf more drought tolerant.
- Water during the cool part of the day to minimize water lost to evaporation. Early morning hours (4 - 8 a.m.) are the best, and the peak water consumption hours (4 - 9 p.m.) should be avoided.
- Avoid watering during midday hours when it is hot and sunny to prevent scalding the turf.
- Watering at night is often generally not recommended because the lawn stays wet for a long period of time which can promote diseases and affect the health of your lawn. This is inconclusive and given as a consideration, as night watering in some cases may be better than other alternatives.
- Avoid watering during rainy or windy weather conditions.
- Set systems to turn on between 4 and 8 a.m. in the morning.
- Set the system to turn on for three 10-minute sessions with each session 2 hour apart to improve water infiltration and reduce runoff.
- Equip the system with moisture sensors so the system does not turn on when it is raining. Soil moisture sensors are also available.
- Set the automatic timer to water every 3 or 4 days adjusting the time and frequency, as needed, to accommodate changes in seasonal water demand.
- Water less frequently and gradually reduce the amount of water. This will help reduce stress and condition the turf if a total ban on lawn watering becomes necessary.
- Reduce the amount of foot traffic allowed on the lawn as much as possible.
- Allow the grass to grow longer to reduce moisture loss from the soil.
- Adding organic matter before seeding will help improve water and nutrient retention.
- Reduce water requirements by using drought-tolerant grass seed and sod.
- Reduce turf areas by planting drought-tolerant trees, shrubs and plants.
- Be aware of the various shade and moisture zones in your yard and plan your gardens and plantings accordingly.
- Mulch can serve as a ground cover that reduces water evaporation from the soil while reducing the number of weeds that compete for soil moisture.
- Use cisterns or rain barrels to capture rainwater from downspouts for use in your yard. A lid, mesh fabric or several drops of baby oil on the surface will prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
Efficient Lawn Watering
Summer lawn watering creates large demands on local water utilities. Water supply treatment and storage facilities are often built 2, 3 and even 4 times larger to supply additional demands created by lawn watering. This extra capacity is not used most of the year and adds significant costs to the design, construction and operation of a water system. Water users and communities can save money by using water more efficiently. These water efficient lawn watering practices can help maintain a beautiful yard and conserve valuable water supplies.
Water is a precious resource in our environment. We have no choice but to pay more attention to how we are using water, and how we may be wasting it. The Town of Longmeadow is trying to bridge the gap between our understanding of how important water is and what we can do to ensure that we have an adequate supply of clean water for years to come.
You are in control, so try to do one thing each day to save water no matter how small and make sure your children are aware of the need to conserve water.