Riverhead officials have asked residents to stop watering their lawns early in the morning on high-demand days because hot temperatures, low rainfall and heavy irrigation have strained the town's drinking water system.

The request was a "matter of public safety to limit water usage to be sure we can meet the demand in times of unforeseen emergencies," Riverhead Water District Superintendent Mark Conklin said in a statement.

Conklin said the "combination of record-breaking hot, dry weather has caused an unprecedented amount of lawn irrigation to occur, and we need to be mindful of our water reserves since these weather conditions increase the potential for fires."

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview Thursday all but one of the district's 17 wells have been pumping water "almost nonstop" this summer to meet demand -- a rate of about 20 million gallons of water a day.

Walter said the highest demand occurs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from about 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. He asked residents to refrain from watering their lawns during those hours.

"If half of the town were to switch their watering schedules to Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, from, say, 9 to midnight, we wouldn't have a problem," he said.

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Walter said in a statement that the town is "blessed this summer to be experiencing beautiful weather" but high water use is stressing the district's capacity to pump water.

"I believe it is only common sense that we ask our citizens and businesses to limit watering their lawns and to curb water use in general," he said in the statement.