Reading sees success of saving water during drought

By Gina Snyder

Ten years after my hometown of Reading, Mass., joined the regional water supply system and stopped pumping the groundwater wells that supplied our drinking water, northeast Massachusetts and much of New England is in the worst drought in decades. Before we stopped pumping in 2006, droughts like we’ve had this summer would have turned the Ipswich River into a dry riverbed littered with dead fish. This summer it did not.

Before Reading bought into the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority drinking water system, every second or third year the Ipswich River would go dry. The drought of 2016 has given us reason to celebrate the Town Meeting vote of 2006.readingwater1

In September, I got together with some of my fellow Reading Stream Team members to re-enact a locally famous kayak-without-any-water (“Got Water?”) picture taken in 2002, the year of a severe drought but not as severe as this year. At the time the Ipswich River Watershed Association brought together Stream Teamers and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs at the river to show the conditions. We could not quite reproduce the photo we took then this year since there’s water in the river!

A Stream Team member positioned her kayak while two other members held the famous poster “Got Water?” and I took the picture.

Even before the vote of a decade ago, Reading had a strong water conservation program, distributing on average no more than 55 gallons of water per person per day (below the state Department of Environmental Protection Water Conservation Standard of 65 gallons per capita per day). But conditions were dire nonetheless, with groundwater withdrawals exceeding 2.5 million gallons a day on some of the hottest summer days.

Reading’s water conservation program has continued to show the success it had before switching to the MWRA. Lawn watering is restricted throughout the year, and the Town provides free rain gauges and irrigation timers. A rain gauge helps homeowners determine when the garden, flowers or lawn need watering. The irrigation timer attaches to a garden hose to control how long the sprinkler stays on.

The conservation program will replace homeowners’ garden hose nozzles to help save water when watering outside. The nozzle has an adjustable setting to help water properly. The town also provides faucet aerators to reduce water flow, low-flow showerheads, and leak detection tablets. And, if a homeowner has to replace that leaky toilet, Reading will provide a rebate on a low-flow toilet.

I’ve been so excited as the summer drew to a close and that river segment continued to have water. It’s the most amazing success story I’ve been involved in. I have year after year of dead fish pictures, so to be able to take pictures of water in this year of serious drought has been remarkable.reading2

Reading learned about water conservation while pumping the Ipswich dry. In that case however, conservation wasn’t enough to save the river. The collage below shows a graph of rainfall amounts (from Boston) over the summer drought of 2002 (in photo on left) compared to this year (photo on right). We can see that rainfall monthly totals during this summer have been much lower than they were in 2002, but the river continues to have water quite a ways downstream.

While conditions are severe elsewhere in the Ipswich River and some of its tributaries, with dry riverbed conditions downstream of the Reading Town Forest, Reading has reason to celebrate – its section of the Ipswich River has “Got Water!” And while water conservation continues in this year of severe drought, here’s one success story we can celebrate.

About the author:  Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental Stewardship, Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and serves on her town’s climate committee. She lives in Reading, Mass

https://www3.epa.gov/region1/eco/drinkwater/water_conservation.html.

http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/eea/wrc/water-conservation-standards-rev-june-2012.pdf

http://www.ipswichriver.org/the-ipswich-river-in-the-news/

 

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Do You Know Your Water Footprint?

By Aria Isberto

Water Footprint Calculator

Sometimes it’s difficult to feel connected to water shortage matters in other places, especially when we’re on opposite coasts of the country or half a world away. But while it may seem like the issue is too big, or too far, and our everyday actions as individuals barely make a drop in the bucket, that’s simply not true!

Earlier this week, GRACE Communications Foundation launched a brand-new online footprint calculator that is focused on household water consumption. The interactive questionnaire uses data from the Water Footprint Network, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several other sources to calculate an individual’s water footprint. It takes into account the indoor/outdoor water usage we’re all familiar with, like doing the laundry and washing the car.

Your water footprintIt also calculates virtual water consumption: how much it takes to make the food we eat and the products we purchase. From take-out food to clothing, tech devices and home furniture, all the stuff we buy takes a lot of water to make. Did you know that the average water footprint of an individual in the United States is 2,200 gallons a day?

So take 10-15 minutes of your day to calculate your footprint, or better yet, get the entire household involved! Learn about greywater systems and low flow faucets with your family. Change your answers and see the difference it makes, down to the gallon. You can use it as an educational activity with children (check out our kids section here).

The water footprint calculator is useful in re-evaluating daily habits, and in light of the water shortage issues in the past few years, can also be a reminder of each of our roles in water conservation, no matter where we live. So we can always be mindful consumers of our planet’s resources!

About the Author:
Aria Isberto is an intern at the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she currently resides in Manhattan and is an undergraduate student at Baruch College. Her passions include music, writing and learning about protecting the environment.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.