|North Adams Water Supply In No Danger From Drought|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
06:46PM / Tuesday, July 24, 2012
|Mount Williams Reservoir is down about 6 feet on Monday. |
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Even without the cloudbursts over the past 24 hours, city residents don't have to worry about running out of water anytime soon.
||Public Services Commissioner Timothy Lescarbeau said a heavy rain could fill the 260 million gallon Mount Williams Reservoir. Despite a drop of 6 feet at the reservoir, the city is not looking to restrict water usage at this time.
Nor do they have to worry about the water quality.
"I got a few phone calls about the levels of the water," said Mayor Richard Alcombright on Tuesday at an informational meeting with the media. "People think when it doesn't rain or things aren't flowing well there are water quality issues. [Public Services Commissioner] Tim [Lescarbeau] and the folks in the Water Department, particularly the water plant, monitor this stuff constantly and our water is fine.
"We're not anywhere near where we are thinking we want to put a ban on anything."
Several area communities are asking residents to conserve on water. Dalton has asked residents to limit watering of lawns and gardens to prevent water pressure drops; Pittsfield is instituting fines of $50 for unattended lawn sprinklers.
According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, Western Massachusetts is in a moderate drought; neighboring Southern Vermont is "abnormally dry."
But while the city's two reservoirs are low — down about 6 feet — Lescarbeau said they'd have to get down to 12 feet before he started worrying because the watershed is so vast.
"When they get that low, I can turn on the Greylock well that is located at Greylock School. We've run that in the past," said the commissioner. "My crews are going to begin the process of prepping it just in case. I don't see that happening until September, October, if it has to happen."
The last time the well was utilized was 2007, when the Notch Reservoir dropped to 14 feet.
"It was a very dry summer. We could walk across the middle of the reservoir and not getting our feet wet," he said. But a heavy fall rainstorm swiftly recharged it. "Because of that rain, it filled the reservoir and came up three feet above the high watermark overnight."
The same thing occurred with Tropical Storm Irene last fall, when the reservoirs were drained down in preparation for the storm. Both were filled to overflowing in short order.
The reservoirs have a capacity of 260 million gallons at Mount Williams and 90 million at Notch. The city's daily use is about 1.3 million to 1.5 million gallons; the yearly production was 630 million gallons last year. In a pinch, the Greylock well can service 90 percent of the low service load; the balance and the high service load (such as the hospital and nursing home) of about a half-million gallons a day can be taken care of through the water filtration plant.
"We have a lot of time before we have to worry about it," Lescarbeau said of water-use reduction.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said the city's water is monitored for quality and is so far not affected by the recent dry conditions.
Lescarbeau said the city's annual hydrant flushing program, running a little later than usual this year, only uses about a day's worth of water over a period of four to six weeks. The flushing is necessary for eliminating sediment and mineral buildups; each hydrant expends a thousand or so gallons during the flush.
City Administrative Officer Michael Canales said Windsor Lake is down some and is being monitored for water quality. In addition to the bimonthly E. coli test, the water is also being monitored for coliform.
"We're monitoring, we're on top of everything making sure that swimmingwise it's safe, drinkingwise it's safe," said Canales.
Lescarbeau, the former supervisor of the water filtration plant, said sometimes people get confused between the reservoirs and the lake. "You swim at Fish Pond, you drink the water out of Mount Williams, not the other way around," he said.
The city does encourage water conservation as a regular practice, said the mayor, and people have become more conscious of water usage. But, he said, "We're not in the position to say we're going to put a ban on until we actually have to put a ban on."
The "drought" may be short lived in any case. Even as officials were explaining the water system, a thunderstorm broke over the city and the weather forecast is calling for more rain through the weekend.