CHATHAM — New water conservation rules for swimming pools and in-ground sprinkler systems are working their way down the pipeline.
The draft regulations call for all new residential irrigation systems to be connected to private wells, where they are available, starting on April 1, 2018. Property owners who have a private well suitable for irrigation will be required to use it, rather than using town water, for their sprinklers. Turf irrigation systems will be set to provide no more than an inch of water each week, and systems can't be expanded after Jan. 1, 2018, without permission. The regulations also impose fines and penalties for repeat violators and authorize the police department to enforce the rules.
Starting in 2020, all irrigation systems that remain connected to town water will need to be placed on a separate water meter, installed at the property owner's expense. All new systems would require separate metering starting immediately. Systems on town water would need a timing device capable of conforming to odd-even day water restrictions, and must allow watering only between midnight and 6 a.m. The irrigation system rules don't apply to movable sprinklers connected by garden hoses.
Starting on April 1, 2018, it will be illegal to use town water to fill or re-fill swimming pools. Pools connected to town water must be registered and permitted by the town by 2018, and must be placed on a separate water meter.
Selectmen will hold a public hearing on the draft rules at their Dec. 13 meeting. The regulations were crafted by the water and sewer advisory committee in response to the strain on the water supply from record high water use in recent years. Each summer, town officials “sweat bullets” over the system's ability to keep up with demand, committee Chairman Larry Sampson told selectmen last week.
“As a response to that, we looked at many options, including an additional $3.5 million to expand our well capacity,” he said. Instead, the committee is recommending stricter controls on water use, hoping to stave off the need for big capital projects or water rate increases. The strain on the water system will be eased when a new filtration system comes online in the spring of 2018, Sampson said.
“In the meantime, we're running on a paper-thin margin of safety in terms of our ability to supply water,” he said.
Selectman Amanda Love noted that many properties with swimming pools and in-ground irrigation systems are owned by summer residents who cannot be present for next month's public hearing. She suggested inviting the chairman of the summer residents' advisory committee to the meeting.
The draft regulations are posted on the town's website.