Town relaxes water restrictions temporarily
Sitting as the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners, the Town Council Monday voted 3-0 to temporarily suspend of the annual summer restrictions on outdoor water uses.
The three councilors attended the meeting were Council Vice President Julio DiGiando, and Councilmen William Kelly and Michael Schnack. Council President David Long and Councilor Barbara Szepatowski were absent.
The couincilmen expressed confusion during discussions about the status of the annual water ban that affects all customers of the town water system, or nearly half of all Jamestown residents. Violators are subject to having their town water connections shut off, according to the regulations.
The three councilmen this week referred to the July 10 discussion by all five councilors to provide a very limited easing of the summer water use restrictions in effect annually since 1995. They planned at that meeting to vote Monday, July 17, to allow unrestricted boat, house, and car washing for the rest of July.
However, information presented at Monday's meeting by Town Solicitor J. William W. Harsch was about wording of the suspension only for alternate weekday uses. The suspension that was adopted allows outdoor washing on alternate days effective July 18 and continuing through Aug. 21, the next the council sits as water and sewer commissioners.
In addition to provisions about lawn watering and about washing, the permanent restrictions provide for alternate weekday watering of plants. The full ban on lawn watering remains and the alternate rules for plants remain in effect.
The councilmen discussed the possibility of extending the suspension of the ban to allow some unrestricted water uses to all commercial establishments, but decided they did not have enough information to proceed on further easing of restrictions.
In prior years, the water ban has meant no watering of lawns at any time, alternate weekday watering of plants, and no washing of boats, houses or cars unless the North Pond reservoir level were sufficient to allow water uses for washing on alternate weekdays after Aug. 1.
This year the councilors were convinced they could allow more water uses but debated the options to consider.
In previous years, the reservoir level, when combined with other factors, especially capacity of the water treatment plant, were not sufficient to consider lifting any part of the ban. The regulations provide for automatic easing on washing restrictions after August only if sufficient water was available, as measured by how far the water level was below the reservoir's spillway.
The suspension was considered this summer because of recent heavy rains, combined with conservation efforts, and some improvements to the municipal water system that have resulted in more water in North Pond than is usual at this time of year.
Schnack was the first to say this week that he was confused because the regulations have built-in provisions about the alternate weekday use. Harsch had presented a draft of the suspension enabling that provision, but none fully lifting the washing ban for the rest of July or longer.
Public Works Director Steven Goslee told the council this week that even with sufficient reservoir levels and other factors, the water treatment plant does not have enough capacity to enable unlimited lifting of the washing ban on weekends, when household water demands and treatment needs are at or very near maximum.
The July 10 consensus to suspend the regulations was reached on washing options even though Harsch had cautioned them about possible implications that some people might see in the easing of restrictions. Some officials were concerned that easing restrictions might be interpreted as an expansion of use and cause some property developers to argue for adding or extending municipal water service for higher density housing or other uses than currently allowed by town water regulations.
Harsch said the partial easing of the water-use restrictions needed to be governed by careful wording of a resolution, as he provided July 17. He also said preserves the rules that curtail water use and water connections, without making them precedents for adding new uses.
The discussion developed as part of a hearing July 10 on easing mandatory conservation measures for municipal water.
At the hearing, William Munger, owner of Conanicus Marine Services, detailed his use of a water tanker to provide about 20,000 gallons of water for his customers to use to wash their boats. He said that the availability
of water this season, and the passing without incident of the island's peak water use over the Fourth of July weekend, led him to request some relief from the summer restrictions.
He said this week that the alternate weekday permission, even though some relief, did not eliminate his need to bring in and install for the season a 10,000 gallon tank truck to supplement his town water use. He was hoping to eliminate the need for the tanker, and some waterfront residents cheered that goal earlier in the month.
DiGiando said Monday that he wanted to be able to justify easing of rules on using water for outdoor washing, even though he chooses to use sea water to wash his own boat as a water conservation measure.
He said that he would like to see more boaters do the same. Sea water is not as cleansing as fresh water, but it is satisfactory, he said.