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2016 Drought Emergency

Reservoir Capacity as of 11/15/2016:
47.4%

Reservoir ExamplesDespite recent rainfall and above average precipitation in October, the impact of the drought on Worcester's water supply remains a major concern. The use of our emergency supply from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) via the Quabbin Aqueduct Shaft 3 coupled with 6.75 inches of rain in October did allow the reservoir system to maintain itself at 50% capacity for the month. However, the system is typically around 77% capacity on November 1st and so remains some 35% below normal for this time of year. The November 1, 2016 capacity of 50.1% is the lowest for a November 1st since 1966, the last year of the "Great Drought."

Recent rains, in particular the torrential downpours of October 21, did allow Worcester DPW&P to curtail pumping from MWRA via Shaft 3. Use of this emergency source was reduced to one pump (8 million gallons per day) on October 21 and shut down completely on October 24. This respite from daily costs in excess of $55,000 may be short-lived if frequent and significant rains do not continue. This year to date, approximately 608 million gallons have been pumped from Shaft 3 into the Worcester reservoir system. Had this emergency source not been activated, the Worcester reservoir capacity would have been 42% on November 1st and just a few percentage points above a Stage 4 Severe Drought Emergency.

YTD Rainfall Trends - 2016 vs 24-Year Average

The strain on Worcester's reservoirs due to the drought is of greatest concern because the City's two largest supplies, Pine Hill Reservoir and Quinapoxet Reservoir, are most severely impacted. When full, these two sources account for 55% of the total supply. As of November 1st, Pine Hill was only 38% full and Quinapoxet, at 23% capacity, remains unusable due to low water levels. Quinapoxet was shut down on August 18th because of low water levels and since that time levels have risen by three feet, short of what is needed to reactivate the pump station for this source.

Reservoir Capacity Trends - 2016 vs 24-Year Average

Water use during October averaged 21.346 million gallons per day. While still above the desired Stage 3 Drought goal of 20 million gallons per day, October 2016 use was 1.2 million gallons per day less than an average October and nearly 2 million gallons per day less than October 2015. Water consumption for the first five days of November averaged 20.9 million gallons per day. Usage during October and early November indicate that, in general, Worcester water users are doing their part to conserve.

Reservoir Levels - November 2016

The City remains in a Stage 3 Drought Emergency. With the end of the growing season, water use restrictions will now focus on leak detection and repair. Educational materials from DPW&P will highlight these areas and indoor water conservation. Violation notices will continue to be issued to those who remain in non-compliance with use restrictions after being notified and warned of the restrictions.

Stage 3 Restrictions

The target goal of use reduction under a Winter Stage 3, Drought Emergency is a fifteen (15) percent reduction from average winter water use and to maintain consumption at 18 million gallons per day or less.

All outdoor water use is still prohibited.

Stage 3 Restrictions

  • Applicable to All Water Users
    1. Water waste is prohibited.
    2. Failure to repair a controllable leak, including, broken sprinkler heads, water services, fire pipes, leaking valves, leaking or broken pipes or faucets is prohibited.
    3. Outdoor watering is prohibited.
    4. Using water to wash down pavement, sidewalks and other ground surfaces except where a Temporary Watering Variance is granted to allevitate a possible public health and safety risk. Applications for a variance must be submitted in writing and submitting an application does not guarantee approval.
    5. Any pressure/power washing activities must be approved by the Department and must be performed by a professional pressure/power washing service provider utilizing high efficiency equipment and a vacuum recovery system where possible. Prior to work, a Temporary Water Use Variance application must be submitted to the Department for consideration. Submitting an application does not guarantee approval.
    6. Vehicle washing is restricted to commercial car washes, commercial service stations or professional washing services only where water is recycled. This includes home and charity car washing. The washing of garbage trucks and vehicles used to transport food and/or other perishables may take place as necessary for health, sanitation or public safety reasons.
    7. Prohibit permitting of new private pools. Existing private and public pools may add water to maintain pool levels, but may not be drained and refilled.
    8. Prohibit the operation of ornamental fountains or ponds that use potable water except where necessary to support aquatic life or water quality.
  • Government
    1. Outdoor watering is prohibited at all times. Temporary Water Use Variances may be granted under special circumstances.
    2. Reduce non-essential water use. As used herein, non-essential water uses are those that do not have a health or safety impact and are not needed to meet the core function of the department.
    3. Suspend formal water main flushing program.
    4. Notify consecutive systems of actions being taken and require them to implement equivalent drought stage measures to reduce water use by twenty to twenty-five percent.
    5. Increase public education efforts on ways to reduce water use.
    6. Increase enforcement efforts.
    7. Update list of known groundwater and leaks.
    8. Increase public leak detection efforts.
    9. Promote leak detection and repair.
    10. Prohibit the installation of new separate water meters for irrigation.
    11. Restrict use of water for Fire Department training activities.
  • Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Business Use Restrictions
    1. Outdoor watering with automatic irrigation systems and hose end sprinklers is prohibited at all times. Exceptions:
      • Hand-watering with a watering can is not restricted.
      • Commercial florists, nurseries, agricultural watering may occur pending the approval of a temporary variance. Requests for a temporary variance must be made in writing, see Temporary Watering Variances application above.
      • Athletic fields (fields only) may water only to protect the health and safety of the players, staff or officials present for organized athletic events, and facilities with verified private water sources pending approval for a temporary variance. Requests for a variance must be made in writing, see Temporary Watering Variances application above.
    2. Outdoor water use for cleaning driveways, decks, sidewalks, car washing or filling swimming pools is prohibited at all times.
    3. Reduce exterior washing of vehicles at commercial facilities such as automobile rental, sales and service operations, taxi companies, trucking facilities and commercial garages where less than 50% of the water used is recycled. The washing of garbage trucks and vehicles used to transport food and/or other perishables may take place as necessary for health, sanitation or public safety reasons.
    4. All restaurants shall limit the serving of tap water to patrons except upon request of the patron.
    5. Identify and repair leaks on private plumbing, automatic irrigation systems and service lines.
    6. Prohibit the use of water for dust control. Requests for a temporary variance must be submitted in writing, see the Temporary Water Use Variance application above.
    7. The use of water for construction purposes from designated fire hydrants under existing hydrant use permit shall be discontinued. Requests for a temporary variance must be submitted in wiring to extend the existing hydrant use permit.
  • Residential
    1. Outdoor watering with automatic irrigation systems and hose end sprinklers is prohibited at all times. Exception:
      • Hand-watering with a watering can is not restricted.
    2. Outdoor water use for cleaning driveways, decks, sidewalks, car washing or filling swimming pools is prohibited at all times.
    3. Identify and repair leaks on private plumbing, automatic irrigations systems and service lines.
    4. Use covers for all types of pools, hot tubs, and Jacuzzi type pools when not in use.

The long term outlook is for drier than normal weather patterns. This suggests that Shaft 3 will likely have to be in use from time to time to assure adequate supplies through the winter. The amount of snow and expected water supply benefits from snow melt come spring will dictate whether 2017 will be another year of water use restrictions.

Water Conservation

Continuing to reduce water use will slow the rate of depletion of our water supply and help ensure a reliable water supply for the future of our city.

Thank you for your help in conserving our most valuable resource.

Penalties

During Declared Droughts and Water Emergencies violators of the Water Use Restrictions will be subject to fines in accordance with the following table as published in Worcester's Revised Ordinances. c. 7 § 18(g):

Emergency StageIIIIIIIV
1st Offense in a Calendar Year $0 $100 $200 $200
2nd Offense in a Calendar Year $50 $200 $250 $250
3rd Offense in a Calendar Year $100 $250 $300 $300
4th and Subsequent Offenses $200 $300 $300 $300
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