, Salem, MA

July 23, 2013

Lack of July rain triggers water bans on North Shore


---- — DANVERS — It may have been a soggy June, but a dry July has towns restricting when residents can water.

On Friday, Danvers increased water restrictions in both Middleton and Danvers to Level 4 due to a precipitous drop in the past week in the flow of the Ipswich River.

These restrictions mean sprinklers and irrigation systems are only allowed to run on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7 to 10 p.m. Hand watering with a hose and cans is allowed at any time. Car washing is also allowed.

“We had an incredibly wet June, but very little rain so far in July,” said Danvers Department of Public Works director of operations Robert Lee.

While Middleton Pond was 98 percent full last week, “It is really the flow in the Ipswich River that trumps many other things, including the level in the pond,” Lee said. A low flow in the Ipswich River also prevents the town from pumping from its wells along the river.

If the dry weather continues, Topsfield could have a mandatory water ban in effect by the end of the week, said Greg Krom, that town’s water superintendent.

Right now, the town has a voluntary restriction in effect, asking residents not to water from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. “It’s up to the customer whether they want to follow it or not,” Krom said.

Hamilton has mandatory water restrictions in effect that “require residents to limit non-essential water use to protect stream flow for aquatic life and to ensure a sustainable drinking water supply,” according to the town’s website. The use of sprinklers and irrigation systems is banned, while handheld watering may be done at night, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. The ban extends to private well users.

Starting May 1, Wenham banned the use of sprinklers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., its website says.

Danvers supplies water to both Danvers and Middleton customers from sources from within Middleton, including Middleton Pond on Lake Street, the main reservoir; Emerson Brook, which is used to top off Middleton Pond; and two wells along the Ipswich River near the Danvers border.

The Danvers water restrictions are part of the towns’ water withdrawal permit, and were put in place when the state Department of Environmental Protection mandated regulations as part of the state’s Water Management Act. These regulations aim to protect river basins under stress from heavy use. Danvers is part of the highly stressed Ipswich River basin.

Danvers is also under a summer cap for water usage from May 1 to Oct. 1. This cap restricts Danvers to 3.8 million gallons per day, meaning conservation measures now could head off more stringent restrictions later this summer.

“It’s been about average for this time of the year,” Lee said of summer usage. “It hasn’t been unusually high demand.”

The mostly dry July has meant a steep drop in the flow of the Ipswich River, however.

When the river flow falls below 18.7 cubic feet per second at a gauge in South Middleton, water restrictions are triggered.

On July 12, the flow was 37 cubic feet per second, Lee said. On Friday, he said, it had dropped to 9.4 cubic feet per second. This low level also means Danvers cannot pump from its wells.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

How to conserve water

Don’t water during the day, as up to half will be lost to evaporation.

Use rain barrels or cisterns to capture water for irrigation.

Let your lawn grow to at least 31/2 inches.

Make sure water flows to your plants and gardens, not down the driveway or into the street.

Don’t feed your lawn during a dry spell. Doing so forces grass to grow, increasing the requirement to water more.

Fix leaky toilets and taps.

Cover swimming pools to prevent water loss from evaporation.

Source: Town of Hamilton