Westfield water restriction update

People should be mindful of their water use through the next few months

WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) — As drought conditions continue in Massachusetts, residents of Westfield continue to have water restrictions in place that may continue through the fall.

Residents will continue to see restrictions unless the Granville reservoir, which supplies Westfield with its water, is replenished to an adequate level. The restriction has helped to curtail some of the depletion so far, but city engineers are concerned that even with the restriction the water height at the reservoir will drop to a concerning level.

“Unless we get some significant precipitation the reservoir won’t refill, even if we were to shut down the plant completely,” Heather Miller, city engineer of Westfield, said. The plant she refers to is the water treatment plant in Westfield.

Miller said that the reservoir, which measures water supply in feet from the spillway, is much lower than it should be at this time of year and is expected to keep lowering.

“Typically the reservoir continues to drop from August to October, but this year it is significantly lower,” Miller said.

Miller said that currently the level is 7.2 feet below the spillway. However, at this point last year we were less than three feet below the spillway. In fact, the 7.2 feet below the spillway is lower than the reservoir was at its lowest point last year, which was just over 6.5 feet in October.

If this continues, then Miller sees the water restriction being extended beyond its Sept. 30 deadline.

Miller stressed though, that this does not mean the water supply is at an immediate risk of being lost, but it does mean that people must be conscientious of their water use and know there are issues that could arise going forward.

One problem that could happen is that if the reservoir level gets low enough, the chemical properties of the water are changed. This change can lead to increased turbidity, or sediment and particulates in the water.

“If the turbidity gets higher our treatment plants have to work harder,” Miller said, “and if it’s too high our treatment plant has to shut down.

“We aren’t seeing that at this point but the last time we saw a drought we saw turbidity issues,” she added.

If this were to happen, then Westfield would have to utilize their backup resource of water by purchasing it from Springfield.

Miller said that the reservoir has an additional 30 feet of depth to go before this would become a cause for major concern. Still, as the level goes down it takes less to lower it, since the reservoir is shaped like a bowl and is narrowing the further down it goes.

For now, Miller suggests that people be mindful of their water use through the next few months and even if their lawns don’t appear beautiful, it’s OK, because grass is going dormant this time of year, anyway.

“I encourage people to not hate their brown lawns and be wise,” she said.

Copyright 2016 The Westfield News

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