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In 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) delivered a report to the Longmeadow DPW summarizing the findings of the DEP's regular analysis of the Longmeadow Water Department’s public water system, and an associated plan for compliance with DEP's target goals.
A key finding of MassDEP 2021 Longmeadow analysis is that Longmeadow’s residential per capita water use, reported in gallons/person/day (G/P/D), has exceeded MassDEP’s water conservation goal of 65 G/P/D. In fact, Longmeadow’s per capita residential water use was the second-highest in all of Massachusetts in 2020, following Town of Weston at 139 G/P/D. During the three years preceding the report, Longmeadow’s residential G/P/D had been reported at 120 G/P/D (2020), 92 G/P/D (2019), and 94 G/P/D (2018). As a component of Longmeadow’s per capita water use reduction plan, MassDEP calls for the Town to commit to establishing a water conservation bylaw requiring weather-responsive controls on automated lawn irrigation systems.
This strategy was identified by analysis of Longmeadow's residential water bills. Water use increases heavily during irrigating months; in non-irrigating months, Longmeadow's G/P/D was more closely aligned with the state average. Therefore, any controls placed on extraneous irrigation (irrigation when it is not needed for the health of the lawn, such as during wet weather) is likely to improve Longmeadow's G/P/D water use.
By adopting this Outdoor Water Use Bylaw, Longmeadow will join the ranks of many other municipalities across the state that have already adopted similar bylaws/ordinances. These communities include, but are not limited to, the Towns of Shrewsbury, Spencer, Concord, Franklin, Lincoln, and Acton.
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The Outdoor Water Use Bylaw will allow the Town of Longmeadow’s Board of Water Commissioners (the Select Board), the Town Manager, and/or the DPW Director to limit non-essential outdoor water use for all public water supply customers through the declaration of a local "State of Water Supply Conservation", “State of Drought” or "State of Water Supply Emergency" and includes civil fines should a public water user be found to be in noncompliance. It also includes additional language that allows the Town to regulate the installation of in-ground irrigation systems by requiring that these systems are registered with the DPW’s Water Department and are properly installed according to the Uniform State Plumbing Code (248 CMR 10.00). Lastly, irrigation systems will need to be installed with (or, if pre-existing, retrofitted with) timing devices that can be set to make the systems conform with the Town’s nonessential outdoor water use restriction; and with moisture-sensor or weather-based irrigation controllers.
The proposed Outdoor Water Use Bylaw does not regulate outdoor water use when precipitation is at normal or plentiful levels and States of Water Supply Conservation, Drought, and Water Supply Emergency are not in effect. The proposed bylaw also does not regulate outdoor water use from private wells, use for health or safety reasons; use required by regulation; use for the production of food and fiber; use for the maintenance of livestock; or use to meet the core functions of a business.
MassDEP isolated our municipal water usage data to identify residential water use. The numbers cited as our annual G/P/D only reflect water used on residential sites. Institutions, businesses, and municipal properties are not counted in these numbers.
Regardless, the proposed bylaw would require all customers of the public water supply to follow the same law. So any public water supply users, including commercial and municipal, would need to comply with this bylaw and purchase and install the appropriate soil moisture or weather sensors to their irrigation systems. The only properties which would be exempt from the bylaw are residents, businesses, institutions, and municipal sites that rely on their own private water sources for irrigation -- such as wells or irrigation ponds. Neither MassDEP, the Select Board, nor the Town Manager have jurisdiction over private water supplies in this matter.
The cost of these devices vary by the type of sensor, and the make and model but can be as inexpensive as approximately $50 when purchased and installed by oneself, or up to several hundred dollars when paying for a high-end product and installation. As long as the device works for the intended purpose, the Town will not require one model over another.
Longmeadow has discussed offering an incentive to residents with existing irrigation systems to help cover a portion of the cost. The value of this incentive has not yet been set, and will not be until the bylaw passes. This value will be set by the Select Board in their roles as the Town Water Commissioners. Note that the Town is not required to incentivize or help cover the cost of following a law; however, Longmeadow will be offering such an incentive to demonstrate goodwill and acknowledge the extra unexpected cost for someone who had previously installed a system.
Subsection 5.3 (a) of the proposed bylaw describes the installation of backflow prevention devices as already required per Massachusetts Drinking Water Regulations (310 CMR 22.22). These are State regulations and are not specific to Longmeadow or any other community. Just as it is when installing any indoor plumbing, it is the responsibility of the system owner to conduct due diligence and ensure compliance with all relevant local, state, and federal laws. Striking this language from our bylaw would not alter the fact of this requirement. A reputable landscape company or plumber hired to install an irrigation system would know this and comply. If a resident is installing their own irrigation system, it is up to them to perform due diligence and learn what the relevant regulations are as housed in 248 CMR 10.00: Massachusetts Uniform State Plumbing Code and 310 CMR 22.22: Massachusetts Drinking Water Regulations. As with any structural installations, residents and business owners are invited to speak with Paul Healy, the Building Commissioner, to learn about the laws and regulations governing their projects, and which permits may be required.
Inspection of the backflow prevention devices is also already required by the state; however, the state does not specify which entity (the municipality or the device owner) has the responsibility to conduct the inspections. The language in subsection 5.3 (c) of the proposed bylaw reminds readers of that responsibility. Per the already existing Town of Longmeadow's Water Rules and Regulations Section 7-4.2.h: "It shall be the duty of the customer-user at any premises where backflow prevention devices are installed to have certified inspections and operational tests made at the required intervals as required under Massachusetts Regulations and this Regulation. The Department will conduct testing on these devices. The owner of the device will be charged for these tests according to the Fee Schedule in the Appendix."
Put simply, the DPW is responsible for conducting the inspections and will charge fees to the customer for the inspections, per already existing Town regulations. Again, the proposed Outdoor Water Use Bylaw is not introducing any new policy here.
Enforcement will occur in the same way that zoning or building code enforcement already occurs -- if an enforcement officer, in the course of their normal travel throughout town, notices a suspected violation (a sprinkler system on during a rain event, for example), then there is cause for an inspection. Or if a neighbor reports a suspected violation of the same nature, an enforcement officer would visit the site. In other words, there will not be hours set aside for regular enforcement activities, but visits will occur on an as needed basis.