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Port Washington residents told to curtail summer water usage

Port Washington Water District Superintendent Italo Vacchio said

Port Washington Water District Superintendent Italo Vacchio said the restrictions on usage are meant to address the increasing gap between rising demand in the summer and decreasing supply as several wells could be forced offline in the coming months for upgrades. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Water district officials in Port Washington are mandating that homeowners on the peninsula cut the length of time they water their lawns and follow a new area-designated timetable to save water.

The measures were announced last week to address the increasing gap between rising demand in the summer and decreasing supply as several wells could be forced offline for upgrades.

“We need the collaboration from all the residents within Port Washington to pitch in and do their part,” district superintendent Italo Vacchio said. “It would be a hardship to meet the demands if we don’t take a more realistic approach to our irrigation within our district.”

Officials said that water usage in the hotter months triples that of the colder months and is driven by irrigation, accounting for more than half of the total consumption during peak summertime usage.

As many homeowners are getting ready to turn on their sprinkler systems, officials said now is the time for them to reduce the watering periods for each zone, including the front lawn, backyard and garden, by 4 minutes. The change would save each household up to 20% of its overall usage and the district about 800,000 gallons of water on a peak day.

Homeowners must also follow a geography-based timetable that designates when lawns can be irrigated.

Residents in the hamlet of Port Washington, for example, must program their sprinkler systems to work only between 3 and 5 a.m. Those in Manorhaven and the west section of Flower Hill can water their lawns between 9 and 11 p.m.

The staggered timetable will help spread out demand so that the water system isn’t overwhelmed all at once, officials said.

Although the district can pump 12 million gallons of water a day, far exceeding the 9-million gallon peak demand, Vacchio said that is the maximum capacity without glitches.

“That means that everything is running, and we have no mechanical breakdowns,” he said. “As you are well aware, everything breaks down now and then.”

Not to mention that up to three big-production wells — each delivering more than 1,000 gallons of water per minute — could be taken offline in a few months to allow for construction projects. 

Since last year, the district has been planning to build treatment facilities at Hewlett and Stonytown well stations over the next few years to treat chemical 1,4-dioxane, which the federal Environmental Protection Agency has listed as a likely carcinogen.

Officials said they want to be proactive and plan ahead as they wait for state regulations to be finalized.

“Because decisions haven’t been made, we’ve decided to operate under the assumption that we are going to have at least one well offline this summer,” said Mindy Germain, a district commissioner. “We feel that no matter what happens at the state level, we will be prepared.”

Officials said residents must obey the new rules, noting the district could issue a warning for any violation.

“It is mandatory. It’s just we are not going to fine anybody for not doing it,” said David Brackett, chairman of the district’s board of commissioners. But “these aren’t just suggestions. These are actual things that we expect everybody to do. Everyone.”

Other water-saving measures

  • If you manually water your lawn and garden: restrict it to 15 minutes per area with a maximum of 2 hours per day.
  • Get an automatic irrigation system. The district offers up to $150 in rebates.
  • Install a rain sensor and a soil moisture sensor.
  • Check irrigation systems for leaks and breaks.

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