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Shelter Island plan to ban underground sprinklers awaits tests

Shelter Island Town Hall. (July 26, 2012)

Shelter Island Town Hall. (July 26, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

Shelter Island officials do not expect to make any decision on implementing a proposed ban on underground sprinkler systems until there are enough results from test wells to determine whether a ban is needed.

The town, which is between the North and South Forks, has its own aquifer, but no direct access to public water from the rest of Long Island.

After problems developed with several private wells more than a decade ago, the town board adopted a ban on underground sprinklers, but allowed residents who already had them -- about 120 homes -- to use them for 10 years before the restriction was to take place.

Before the ban was to have gone into effect last September, the town board extended the deadline to implement the sprinkler ban to May 1. It also created a committee to explore whether the ban needed to be widespread or restricted to certain places on the island, and whether modern sprinkler systems result in less water being wasted.

That committee has held several meetings and ordered test wells dug to determine the extent of the town water problem. Over the past few years town board members said there have been few complaints about private wells. If problems do develop again, the town board can declare a water emergency and take quick action to impose restrictions, officials said last week.

Shelter Island officials have already taken some steps to deal with water shortages. Home swimming pools, for example, can be filled only with water trucked in from off the island.

In the summer, when Shelter Island's population more than triples, the influx puts significant strain on the water supply.

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