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Outdoor water use throttled in Needham

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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff

"We're moderating the demand on our water supply," said Richard Merson, Needham's Director of Public Works. Merson, who (among his myriad other duties) oversees water usage in town, was commenting on the new water restrictions that had been put in place on July 24.

The restrictions are comprised of an odd/even outdoor water ban. Properties with even street numbers may water lawns (and perform other allowed non-essential water uses) only before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. on Thursdays. For odd-numbered houses, the same restrictions apply, only on Tuesdays. In short, no lawn watering via sprinklers or automatic irrigation systems is allowed on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Watering of lawns, gardens, flowers and plants by means of a hand-held hose is allowed at all hours during the restricted period.

"We're in the northeast region of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) - we were just outside of the severe drought location, and the DEP is using the federal drought monitor [to determine where restrictions should be enforced]," explained Merson. "We are effectively in a watch [the third most severe level of Massachusetts' drought management plan scale], while the rest of the state is in an advisory [the fourth most severe]."

"Practically speaking," added Merson, "we're in a rainfall deficit period. We didn't have a heavy winter - thankfully - but there was no snow melt to help our aquifers." In other words, the winter thaw that typically replenishes our water supplies was not as strong as it has been in the past. "During these dry periods, we need to be mindful of the water we're using," he said.

Merson then added an interesting caveat: "Lawns can survive without the additional water - they need about an inch of water a week," he revealed. "It isn't that much. We don't have to water for hours and hours. Anything over that inch is over the level that's beneficial to the lawn."

With the restrictions in place, the Department of Public Works is hoping Needham residents follow their lead in conserving the community's precious supplies of H2O during such a lean period.

"It regulates how the water's being used a little better," Merson concluded.

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