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Port Washington district studying water use

Harbor Links golf course in Port Washington is

Harbor Links golf course in Port Washington is one of the 2015 top ten commercial water users in Port Washington. The top 20 water users in Port Washington will meet with the water district in an effort to sharply reduce lawn irrigation. Wednesday, July 20, 2016 in New Hyde Park. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The practices of heavy water users in the Port Washington Water District will be audited and critiqued, part of an effort to save water on the North Shore.

The overwatering of manicured lawns in wealthy neighborhoods has strained the water supply on the Port Washington peninsula, where space is limited for new wells. The increased demand on the system could result in saltwater intruding into the supply, officials in the district said.

Officials are collecting data on the district’s top residential users and plan to meet with homeowners to “critique” their practices, said Paul Granger, district superintendent.

The district has hired a consulting company, Keesen Water Management Inc. of Colorado, to work with the officials and residents to adopt water-saving techniques.

“We’re looking at our top users,” Mindy Germain, a commissioner of the water district, said. The goal is to “help provide these customers with the knowledge and tools to bring these levels down.”

About 1.49 billion gallons of water were consumed in the district in 2015, representing a nearly 9 percent increase from 2011, when 1.37 billion gallons were used.

The meetings with homeowners will follow talks with representatives of the area’s heaviest commercial users. St. Francis Hospital in Flower Hill, which was the biggest consumer of water, used 35.7 million gallons in 2015 and contributed more than $200,000 in revenue to the district.

The district has also pumped out nearly 20 percent more water during the summer months over the past three years. Between May and September 2015, 888.89 million gallons of water were pumped out, compared to 743.88 million during the same time period in 2012, according to data compiled by the district.

While the average residential user consumes 140,000 gallons per year, the highest residential users consumed between 900,000 and 1.2 million gallons per year, according to the district.

Sarah Meyland, director of the Center for Water Resources Management at New York Institute of Technology, praised the proposal. She said case studies could be developed if the district “can go into their big volume users and evaluate what they’re doing that is generating that high use.”

Meyland said that “if the recommendations are followed, and they can document how much savings in water use they can generate,” other water districts on Long Island can benefit.

District officials say that the area’s wells could be exhausted in 30 years if current trends continue. Meyland said that if more water is taken from the aquifer than is sustainable, saltwater would move toward the well sites, putting them at risk for saltwater intrusion.

The district aims to reduce water consumption by 15 percent. Officials earlier in the year used a sonic technology and found 10 leaks in the distribution system, accounting for the waste of 93,000 gallons per day. It is testing a “smart-controller” device on the lawn of its headquarters, a technology that uses weather reports to determine how frequently water should be released into the system.

The effort to change the behavior of water users is urgent, officials said, as new residents move into the community and request applications to set up the irrigation systems. The district generally approves 60 residential applications per year, and 10 are pending.

One idea, officials said, is to offer residents’ rebates for those who purchase the water-saving sprinkler technologies.

Granger said they are “reaching out to all the municipalities in our jurisdiction — in particular the more affluent villages. They have the larger parcels, and the means to invest in landscaping.”

Top 5 Commercial users in the Port Washington Water District

St. Francis Hospital, Flower Hill

35,754,400 gallons used in 2015

Revenue: $200,978

North Hempstead Town’s Irrigation Pond At Harbor Links Golf Course, Port Washington

33,959,200 gallons used in 2015

Revenue: $191,011.00

Nassau County’s Christopher Morley Park, Roslyn

25,058,000 gallons used in 2015

Revenue: $140,582.00

Amsterdam House at Harborside; Port Washington

12,117,600 gallons used in 2015

Revenue: $72,941.00

North Hempstead Country Club

8,833,880 gallons used in 2015

Revenue: $49,763.00

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