Proposed Outdoor Water Use Bylaw
What is the Proposed Outdoor Water Use Bylaw?
The Town of Longmeadow intends to submit a 2022 Annual Town Meeting warrant article to adopt an Outdoor Water Use Bylaw, the draft copy of which is provided on this website. In order to provide the opportunity for the Select Board and members of the public to review the draft document in advance of Annual Town Meeting, the draft bylaw was also introduced at the February 22, 2022 regular meeting of the Select Board.
The Outdoor Water Use Bylaw will allow the Town of Longmeadow’s Board of Water Commissioners (the Select Board), the Town Manager, and/or the DPW Director to limit non-essential outdoor water use for all public water supply customers through the declaration of a local "State of Water Supply Conservation", “State of Drought” or "State of Water Supply Emergency" and includes civil fines should a public water user be found to be in noncompliance. It also includes additional language that allows the Town to regulate the installation of in-ground irrigation systems by requiring that these systems are registered with the DPW’s Water Department and are properly installed according to the Uniform State Plumbing Code (248 CMR 10.00). Additionally, irrigation systems will need to be installed with (or, if pre-existing, retrofitted with) timing devices that can be set to make the systems conform with the Town’s nonessential outdoor water use restriction; with moisture-sensor or weather-based irrigation controllers; and with backflow prevention devices as approved by the Board of Water Commissioners.
The propose Outdoor Water Use Bylaw does not regulate outdoor water use when precipitation is at normal or plentiful levels and States of Water Supply Conservation, Drought, and Water Supply Emergency are not in effect. The proposed bylaw also does not regulate outdoor water use from private wells, use for health or safety reasons; use required by regulation; use for the production of food and fiber; use for the maintenance of livestock; or use to meet the core functions of a business.
Why is the Town Proposing an Outdoor Water Use Bylaw?
On May 26, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), Drinking Water Program (DWP) delivered a report to the Longmeadow Department of Public Works (DPW) summarizing the findings of the DWP’s sanitary survey of the Longmeadow Water Department’s public water system and a compliance plan. The sanitary survey had been conducted one month prior to the receipt of the letter, on April 28, 2021. A sanitary survey is an on-site review of the water sources, facilities, equipment, operation, and maintenance of a public water system for the purpose of evaluating the system’s ability to produce and distribute safe drinking water.
A key finding of MassDEP DWP’s 2021 Longmeadow sanitary survey is that Longmeadow’s residential per capita water use, reported in gallons/person/day (G/P/D), has exceeded MassDEP’s water conservation goal of 65 G/P/D. In fact, Longmeadow’s per capita residential water use was the second-highest in all of Massachusetts in 2020 (DEP-Approved Performance Standards for Massachusetts Public Water Suppliers as of 9/9/21: 2014 through 2020). During the previous three years, Longmeadow’s residential G/P/D had been reported at 120 G/P/D (2020), 92 G/P/D (2019), and 94 G/P/D (2018). As a component of Longmeadow’s per capita water use reduction plan, the DEP calls for the Town to commit to establishing a water conservation bylaw requiring weather-responsive controls on automated lawn irrigation systems.
By adopting this Outdoor Water Use Bylaw, Longmeadow will join the ranks of many other municipalities across the state that have already adopted similar bylaws/ordinances. These communities include, but are not limited to, the Towns of Shrewsbury, Spencer, Concord, Franklin, Lincoln, and Acton.
Are There Other Measures that Town of Longmeadow Could Take to Reduce Per Capita Water Use?
In its Sanitary Survey report, DEP required that Longmeadow alter its water billing cycle to quarterly billing from our then-standard biannual billing. The purpose of this change is to use water bills as an educational tool to demonstrate to water uses how and when they are using the most water. For many water users in Longmeadow, the quarterly bills reflecting the months when they are irrigating their lawns will be their highest bills. The Town has already adopted this measure.
How Will the Town Help Me Meet These New Standards?
The Town of Longmeadow recognizes that there is additional cost associated with requiring installation of moisture-sensor or weather-based irrigation controllers with in-ground irrigation systems. Should this bylaw pass at Town Meeting, the Town will offer a monetary incentive, in an amount to be determined, for property owners with existing in-ground irrigation systems to bring them into compliance with this bylaw.