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2017 Drought Warning

Related Pages: Public Works & Parks » Water/Sewer Operations

Q:
What is a drought?
 A:

Droughts typically occur when there is a prolonged period of below average rainfall resulting in less water available to meet the consumption needs of the water system. Human activity and use of water can exacerbate drought conditions. Drought can appear slowly and last for many years or it can be a short-lived event, although both can have significant impacts. It also can occur locally, regionally or statewide.

Q:
Where does our water come from?
 A:

Worcester Water Operations is a Public Water System that serves the City of Worcester along with some neighboring homes and communities. Worcester draws its drinking water from 10 surface water sources, or reservoirs, located outside the City. These reservoirs provide a combined maximum storage capacity of 7,379.9 Million Gallons.

Q:
Don't we get our water from Quabbin and Wachusett?
 A:

No. Worcester owns and manages our own water supply reservoirs. There are 10 of them located North and West of the City.

Q:
What are drought triggers?
 A:

A drought trigger in the City of Worcester is most often based on the percent capacity of water available from the reservoir system. Other potential triggers that may require the implementation of a water supply emergency management plan would include things such as mechanical or infrastructure failures that affect the water supply system.

Q:
Why do some of the reservoirs look full and some look empty?
 A:

Our reservoir system consists of 10 interconnected reservoirs. Worcester Water Operations manages the whole reservoir system to responsibly transfer water to the City while protecting the natural resources associated with them. In doing so, some reservoirs are maintained at a higher capacity than others. But when considering drought conditions we look at the overall combined capacity of the system.

Q:
When does the drought start and end?
 A:

In general the City of Worcester implements a drought stage when the available capacity of the reservoir system falls below a drought stage trigger.

The City will typically end a drought stage when the available reservoir capacity climbs above the trigger for that stage and remains there for 30 days.

Other factors that may influence the decision to implement or end a stage in the Drought and Water Emergency Management Plan are weather conditions, time of year and availability of alternate water sources.

Q:
Where can I find out about what the water restrictions are?
 A:

Current water restrictions affecting city government, business and residential customers can be obtained by contacting our customer service line Monday - Friday, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM at (508) 929-1300 or on our website.

Q:
Why do we have to follow this watering ban?
 A:

Landscape irrigation makes up a large portion of usage, particularly during the warmer months of the year. In fact, irrigation during summer months can increase demand on the treatment plant between 20-40%. By improving the efficiency of our irrigation practices, we can reduce consumption, save money and preserve the City's water supply.

Q:
How do you define hand-watering?
 A:

Hand-watering refers to the application of water for irrigation purposes through a hand-held hose or watering container. A person must be physically holding the hose or container. Watering by hand cannot occur unattended.

Q:
I manage a complex with multiple addresses but just one irrigation system. How should we operate our system?
 A:

You need to make certain all irrigation systems are off. You will be responsible if an irrigation system comes on automatically.

Q:
Am I going to be fined?
 A:

City staff will be patrolling for violations. The City of Worcester prefers not to levy penalties associated with drought conditions.  However, if a severe misuse or waste of water is identified, financial penalties may be issued.

Q:
How can I report a violation if I see one?
 A:

Citizens who witness a violation can report it by using our confidential online Water Violation Report form. Citizens can also call DPW&P Customer Service at (508) 929-1300 to report a violation.  The City takes all reports seriously and deploys staff to follow up on all reports of violations; however, formal notices of violations are not issued unless City staff witnesses the violation.

Q:
What else can I do to conserve water?
 A:

During times of mandated reductions in water use, do your part to reduce water use. Talk to family members about their water use and ways to reduce it. We can take an active role in conserving water, by:

  • Repairing leaky faucets or irrigation systems.
  • Make sure you have efficient appliances such as clothes washers, dish washers and low flush toilets.
  • Installing low-flow devices on faucets and showers.
  • Reducing outdoor water use such as washing cars, lawn watering, or using the hose to clean the driveway.

*For more helpful tips visit our Simple Water Conservation Tips page.

Q:
I am a landlord. How do I get my residents to use less water?
 A:

Talk to your residents and make sure they know conserving water is very important, especially during a drought. As the landlord, you could make updates to fixtures and appliances such as toilets, clothes washers, faucets, showerheads, etc. in your building to more efficient and low flow models. Visit our Conservation Tips page for more tips.

Q:
Are there rebates available for less water usage?
 A:

Unfortunately, rebates for using less water will not be available from the City at this time.

Q:
How do I check for leaks?
 A:

Faucets - Check all faucets and piping for leaks by monitoring for drips of water under sinks and from exposed pipes. Perform an inspection with the water on and off, as some leaks only occur when the water is on.

Toilets - Add a few drops of dark food coloring in the back of the toilet tank. Do not flush the toilet. Wait for a few minutes. If the food coloring appears in the toilet bowl, this means you have a leak. Some toilet leaks are intermittent, so you don't always see or hear the water running.

Check plumbing in the basement by monitoring for drips of water coming from exposed pipes.

Check your meter - Turn off all water using appliances and water fixtures inside and outside your home. Check your meter to see if the leak detector (small black triangle) is spinning or slightly vibrating. If it is, then you most likely have a leak and should try to investigate further.

Q:
Should I consider drinking bottled water?
 A:

We work hard to ensure that high quality drinking water is supplied throughout the City. We encourage you to continue drinking tap water.

Q:
Are we going to run out of water?
 A:

Through conservation efforts and water use restrictions, our goal is to preserve water supplies for future and continued use. In addition, there are several alternative water sources available to us if it becomes necessary to supplement our reservoir system. However, purchasing water to supplement our system is very costly.

Q:
Why weren't restrictions implemented sooner?
 A:

Water use restrictions were not implemented during the summer because water storage was still within a normal range. Throughout the summer, storage never dropped below 85%. Although total rainfall for the year was below average, the potential to "catch up" was very possible.

Q:
What do you mean by reduce water use?
 A:

All metered customers and water users are currently required to comply with Stage 2 Water Use Restrictions and asked to reduce their daily water use by 10%.  While it is expected that normal or above-normal rainfall will return and restore the reservoir system to more typical levels, reducing water use will slow the rate of depletion and extend the time that the present water stored will be available before more drastic measures are needed.  The intent of the Stage 2 Drought Warning is to make the public aware of the situation so that efforts can be made at all levels in the community to reduce water waste and water loss.

All water users should focus on eliminating leaks and taking steps to use water more efficiently.  Attention should be paid to how water is used and whether there are alternative means that could reduce or eliminate water use for certain tasks.

Q:
What are the Stage 1 Water Use Restrictions and Limitations?
 A:

The target goal of use reduction under a Winter Stage 1, Drought Alert is a five (5) percent reduction from average winter water use and to maintain consumption at 20 million gallons per day or less.

  • 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. The operation of ornamental fountains or ponds that use potable water except where necessary to support aquatic life or water quality is prohibited.
  • Government
    1. 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.
    2. Notify consecutive systems of actions being taken and require them to implement equivalent drought stage measures to reduce water use by ten percent.
    3. Maintain public education efforts on ways to reduce water use.
    4. Maintain enforcement efforts.
    5. Update list of known groundwater and leaks.
    6. Increase public leak detection efforts.
    7. Promote leak detection and repair.
  • Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Business Use Restrictions
    1. Identify and repair leaks on private plumbing, automatic irrigation systems and service lines.
    2. Prohibit the installation of new separate water meters for irrigation.
    3. The use of water for construction purposes from designated fire hydrants under existing hydrant use permit shall be limited.
  • Residential
    1. Identify and repair leaks on private plumbing, automatic irrigations systems and service lines.
    2. Prohibit the installation of new separate water meters for irrigation.
    3. Use covers for all types of pools, hot tubs, and Jacuzzi type pools when not in use.
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