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Hit by drought, Cambridge to draw water from MWRA

Low water levels at the Cambridge Reservoir were common during September. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The Cambridge Water Department on Monday will ask the City Council for an appropriation so it can buy water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, because water levels in the the city’s reservoirs have fallen to a 10-year low amid the state’s continuing drought.

The city will pay $1.2 million per month for about 320 million gallons of water, said Sam Corda, managing director of the Water Department. The amount could change, depending on actual water usage.

Cambridge joins Worcester, the Cherry Valley and Rochdale water districts in Leicester, and Ashland in buying water from the MWRA, spokeswoman Ria Convery said. Burlington also has approval to start taking water and may start as soon as Tuesday.


“It is unusual to have these communities all taking water at once, but it is a direct result of the drought conditions,” Convery said.

The MWRA gets its water from Quabbin Reservoir, a man-made, 412 billion-gallon supply that provides water to Boston and 50 other municipalities in Central and Eastern Massachusetts, Convery said.

The Quabbin is currently 81.3 percent full, within normal range, Convery said.

Corda said Cambridge would buy water quarterly, and the appropriation would extend for three months. He acknowledged the city might buy MWRA water until next fall, given current drought forecasts.

Cambridge’s reservoir system is at about 25 percent of usable capacity, Corda said. The city began supplementing its system with MWRA water last week.

Cambridge is a full member of the MWRA, despite having its own water system, and will pay the wholesale price for water, Corda said.

Cambridge’s system includes Hobbs Brook Reservoir (also known as Cambridge Reservoir), which can be seen from Route 128 in the Waltham area, Stony Brook Reservoir, Fresh Pond, and the covered Payson Park Reservoir.

Dylan McGuinness can be reached at dylan.mcguinness@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DylMcGuinness.