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By Harry Kane
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
For the sixth straight month, the region has been experiencing abnormally dry conditions initially resulting in a drought advisory followed by a drought warning. As of Friday, August 26, the status has been modified to include a mandatory ban on outdoor watering of lawns or shrubbery.
The drought is a result of low groundwater and streamflow levels from extended periods of precipitation deficit, according to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
The state-issued restrictions are warranted in Westwood due to a water-supply shortage, explains Robert Eiben, district general manager at the Dedham-Westwood Water District.
“What we’re seeing is the levels in the aquifer continually go down,” said Eiben.
There are five wells in Westwood that produce 75 percent of the average daily delivery.
The largest of the five wells was turned off, he explained, once it fell below 12.6 cubic feet per second.
“There are some regulations on the new well,” Eiben said. “If the river gets to a certain level, we have to shut them off.”
The Neponset River at Green Lodge Street near Canton, MA is currently discharging only 1 cubic foot per second, according to USGS, a national water information system that monitors groundwater levels and gauges daily streamflow conditions.
During emergency water shortages such as these, the DWWD buys wholesale water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority for the towns of Westwood and Dedham, with the capability to purchase up to 73 million gallons annually, should that be needed.
“The minute number fivegoes off, we turn on the MWRA,” Eiben explains.
While the reservoir levels in Westwood may be lower than usual, the MWRA has a large supply to offset the water shortage.
The Dedham-Westwood Water District pays a rate of $3471.75 per million gallons. So far this year, the DWWD has purchased roughly 60 million gallons.
As well, the Water District pays an entrance fee specific to Dedham and Westwood based on their average water use and a percentage of the net value of their infrastructure, according to Sean Navin, director of intergovernmental affairs at MWRA.
The entrance fee to join MWRA’s program was $548,748 for 36.5 million gallons back in 2006. And then in 2014 the DWWD paid another $556,727 – to be paid over five years – for a total of 73 million gallons of water per year, if needed.
However, as long as the drought persists, the MWRA is prepared to offer assistance, even if Westwood and Dedham require more than the agreed-upon maximum yearly amount.
Hose watering of flowers and vegetables is permitted, but the watering of lawns is prohibited, with the exception of a watering container not exceeding three gallons, according to DWWD’s website.
Car washing has been banned unless it’s done at an approved facility that possesses a water recycling system, or if the homeowner uses a bucket or container that holds less than three gallons.
Some indoor water-saving tips include taking shorter showers, washing only full loads of laundry and dishes, turning off the tap while brushing teeth and fixing leaky faucets and toilets.
A leaflet provided by the MWRA, which can be found at the Dedham-Westwood Water District’s office, has tips for conserving water in the house. One of these tips explains that fixing or replacing a toilet can save 50 gallons of water per day or thousands per year.