Abington’s prohibition on outside water usage will likely be in effect for the next two weeks until the Meyers Avenue treatment plant is reopened.
Abington/ Rockland Joint Water Works Superintendent Joe LaPointe now believes last week’s drop in water reserves may have been caused by a spike in customer demand, after a search for an undetected leak came up empty.
“Everybody’s home looking at their lawns and looking at their flowers,” he said.
The region is nearing drought conditions after an unusually dry May and June. LaPointe said other nearby water departments have also been reporting significant spikes in demand.
After Abington’s water is treated some of it is kept in a large underground “clear well” as a buffer to handle twice daily peaks in usage. Normally, the water in that well is about 10 feet deep, according to LaPointe; however early last week that reserve was only about four feet deep promoting the water department to issue the emergency water ban.
Complicating the issue, one of the system’s three treatment plants, located at the Meyers Avenue well field, has been shut down for planned refurbishment. LaPointe said work should wrap up later this week, and the plant will then begin a quality testing process that lasts about two weeks. The system’s other two plants, which are both significantly larger, have been running essentially around the clock to keep up with demand.
Over the past few days, as Abington and Rockland residents have cut back their outdoor water usage, the reserves have rebounded and now stand about nine feet deep.
“We are gaining a little bit,” said LaPointe. “Usage has dropped. The ban has helped us a lot. I know it’s a [pain] but it is helping.”
The ban does not apply for indoor household water needs such as bathing, food preparation, laundry, and drinking.
The town’s ability to drop back to a Phase 3 ban, which allows residents to use handheld houses on even/odd days, also depends on whether the state Department of Environmental Protection declares that a drought exists in the region. So far this spring, the area was received about four inches of rain less than average. A drought declaration by state environmental officials may force all local water departments to issue outdoor watering bans.
Editor’s note: We see and hear all the questions and comments about water usage, development, new water sources etc., on social media and elsewhere. Water is a complex topic. But we will explore it in more depth and detail in the coming weeks.