By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
On Friday, August 14, the Massachusetts' Energy and Environmental Affairs department declared a massive drought throughout the entirety of the state. The lack of precipitation, an influx of people working from home, an over-irrigation of lawns, and summer's scorching temperatures have led to more water use during the past few months. Since the drought was declared, communities have found themselves putting restrictions in place to ensure that residents will have enough water during this already chaotic time.
Currently, Medfield is under a tier 4 water restriction. Under this restriction, nonessential water use is prohibited, including irrigation of lawns with sprinklers and other automatic irrigation systems, washing of vehicles (not using a commercial car wash), and washing exterior surfaces. Handheld watering is permitted before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
At the moment, these restrictions are in place not only to ensure that residents have access to quality water, but also for their safety, as well. “When the temperatures climb during the summer months, residents begin to set their irrigation systems on automatic timers and water their lawns more often, which puts a great stress on our infrastructure. Also, some residents water during the hottest times of the day in which evaporation and evapotranspiration is more prevalent,” wrote Director of Public Works Maurice Goulet. “Part of our rules and regulations is that we prohibit watering between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., regardless of what level of restriction is in place. The major concern with our infrastructure is that the irrigation use puts a tremendous strain on our storage tank levels in which our wells cannot keep up with the demand in these situations, affecting the fire suppression capabilities and providing potable drinking water to our residents.”
While these concerns seem to happen every year, there are the added factors of water tanks and town wells. In just a few weeks, the Mount Nebo Water Storage Tank rehabilitation project will begin. “This rehabilitation is part of our Capital Improvements Program. The work would include draining the tank, leaving our Medfield State Hospital Tank as our only water storage tank available during this two-month-long project. Water restrictions will most likely continue for the duration of the work,” explained Goulet. The town is also facing problems caused by the breakdown of Well #3. “Also, we are in the final design stages of a proposed water treatment facility, which involves replacing Well #3 located off Elm Street in Medfield. At this time, Well #3's pumping capacity has diminished and continues to do so - thus the need for all residents to comply with the current water use restrictions,” Goulet emphasized.
Even if this drought ends soon, which seems unlikely, the town will still be facing pressure on the water system and water supply during the upcoming months. Residents are welcomed to continue hand-watering their gardens and jumping in pools. But it’s crucial to turn off those automatic sprinklers and irrigation systems if residents want enough water to get through the next few months without risk of something going wrong.