Despite the recent spell of sultry and dry weather, local water supplies remain at relatively healthy levels.
With plentiful rain in June, storage of water during the spring, and ongoing conservation efforts, local reservoirs and wells are in good shape, according to local managers.
Still, they caution that if hot, dry weather continues, water supplies could tighten. In some communities, largely due to low flow levels on the Ipswich and Parker rivers, residents already are required to limit outdoor water use.
“Right now, we are fairly healthy,” said Robert Ward, deputy director of Haverhill’s Department of Public Works, noting that the city’s main reservoir is about 95 percent full. “But obviously, you’ve got to watch the weather. We are in some hot, dry weather, so we’re in a watch mode and tracking the levels.”
The two primary reservoirs that supply Salem and Beverly were about 95.9 percent full as of the end of last week, according to Peter Smyrnios, assistant superintendent of the Salem/Beverly Water Supply Board.
“We have no concerns about this little minidrought we are having,” Smyrnios said. Still, he said, “levels can change really fast.”
In a statement Monday, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation said that while ground water and reservoir levels are fine, stream flows are quite low for this time of year.
“The state’s drought management task force team is monitoring conditions carefully and may need to convene a special meeting in early August if conditions don’t improve,” the agency said. “However, many water suppliers with limited resources have implemented local outdoor water restrictions.”
The Quabbin Reservoir, the source for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority system, which includes all or parts of 20 area communities, is 94 percent full, “well within the normal operating range for this year,” said agency spokeswoman Ria Convery.
Middleton Pond, the main water source for Danvers and Middleton, is also at normal levels, according to Jason McCarthy, manager of the water treatment plant Danvers operates for the two towns.
As of July 13, the pond elevation was about a foot above what would be classified as a mild drought level, he said.
McCarthy said the pond is at a healthy level because, following its regular practice during the spring, the town made use of the two wells it maintains along the Ipswich River.
But as a condition of the state permit that allows Danvers and Middleton to withdraw water from the basin, the towns are required to impose water use restrictions beginning each May 1 and then increase them whenever water flow on the river drops below specified levels. Twice this month, the towns had to up their restrictions.
“We get calls from people saying why are we at [the current restriction level] when Middleton Pond looks like it’s full,” McCarthy said. “It’s because the river level is so low.”
Duane LeVangie, chief of the water management program for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said a standard permit provision for communities that withdraw water from distressed river basins includes limiting water use in certain conditions or at certain times. The agency is gradually extending that policy to all river basins.
Communities can avoid the requirement if instead of a permit, they register their existing water withdrawals based on their water use between 1981 and 1985.
The three wells that supply Georgetown are at very good levels, according to Glenn Smith, the town’s water superintendent. But the town had to impose water restrictions last Friday under its state permit when Parker River flow rates fell below a minimum level.
Paul Colby, Newburyport’s water superintendent, said the city’s supply is in very good shape. He said the two reservoirs that supply most of the system are about 95 percent full.
He said starting July 1 through the end of September, however, the city is on water restrictions because of work at its treatment plant. Restrictions also are in place in the sections of Newbury served by the system, and in West Newbury, which purchases water from Newburyport.
Lynn, which draws its water from the Ipswich and Saugus rivers, is not facing a shortage, according to Daniel F. O’Neill, executive director of the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission. He said the city is currently at 82.9 percent capacity “and anything above 66 percent we consider normal conditions for the summer.”
He said Lynn prepares for the peak summer demands by moving its water from the rivers to its four storage reservoirs during the other seasons. According to LeVangie, Lynn is one of the communities that has opted to register its historic water usage levels rather than seek a permit.
Vicki Halmen, Ipswich’s water and waste-water manager, said the town’s water supply – two surface reservoirs and three wells on the Parker River, as well as three wells on the Ipswich River – is at typical levels for this time of year.
Halmen said the town registers its water usage for its Ipswich River wells, rather than operating under a permit. It does have a permit for its Parker River facilities, and would restrict water use if specific rainfall or reservoir levels are reached.
Those levels have not been triggered this year, but Halgen said restrictions were in place from May 1 to July 6 because of technical problems that forced temporary shutdowns of the treatment plant and one of the wells.