Derry Opts for Voluntary Water Conservation in Current Drought

The Town of Derry will follow the lead of Manchester Water Works (MWW), its chief supplier of town water, in encouraging water conservation through voluntary measures.

In a phone interview last week, Michael Fowler, Director of Public Works for Derry, said the Town will encourage voluntary conservation rather than a mandatory ban in response to the extreme drought conditions.

In a meeting last week the Commissioners of the Manchester Water Works voted unanimously to ask their customers to consider voluntary water use restrictions. The measure was taken to address the low water levels in Manchester’s Lake Massabesic, from which the company draws its water.

Officials from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) have said the state has received only 50 percent of its normal rainfall over the past six months.

Last week the DES recommended to municipalities that they impose mandatory outside lawn watering bans.

But officials at the MWW said that while Massabesic is down 50-1/2 inches, recent rain added 2-1/2 inches. Historically, it was down 39-1/2 inches last year and 45 inches in 2010, officials noted.

According to Fowler, Derry is not in a position to impose either voluntary or mandatory water restrictions. He said he prefers to take a “wait and see” attitude.

“We are going to monitor what Manchester does, we are going to monitor our own systems,” Fowler said.

Derry’s community well systems, which do not use water from the MWW, are already on restriction and have been so since May, according to Fowler.

Fowler anticipated a seasonal “drop-off” from water use, noting that when pools are not being filled and lawns not being watered, the drop-off is as much as 15 to 20 percent.

He also pointed to a forecast last week of clouds and some rain. “We are expecting at least an inch,” he said.

While that won’t “make a dent” in the drought, it will keep things greener and moister, according to Fowler, and mitigate some of the late-season lawn watering.

“Once we hit November, things should turn around,” Fowler predicted.

Fowler said he hopes to revisit the issue next spring. The town may have to look at water usage, depending on whether there’s a lot of snow this winter, he said.

But, he said, “If Manchester Water Works had designated a mandatory ban, we would follow it.”

Fowler said he’s aware of only a handful of Derry private wells going dry, and that was through social media. “It is less than 10 that we know about,” he said.

His department is also monitoring the situation with private wells, he said. “Whatever Manchester does or doesn’t do, they are affected,” Fowler said.

Manchester’s aquifer is fed by precipitation, Fowler said, adding, “If we have a lot of rain, it could bounce back quickly.”

In addition to its hometown, Manchester Water Works supplies water to Hooksett, Auburn, Londonderry, Bedford and Goffstown; wholesales water to Derry, Goffstown and Hooksett; and supplies water to Pennichuck Water Works of Nashua.

Manchester Water Works has conservation tips for homeowners on its Web site at  HYPERLINK “https://www.manchesternh.gov/Departments/Water-Works” https://www.manchesternh.gov/Departments/Water-Works.