The Port Washington Water District implemented the Do It For Port...

The Port Washington Water District implemented the Do It For Port campaign to promote water conservation during this summer's drought. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Compared with the four driest summers since 2010, the Port Washington community used less water during the drought this summer, Port Washington Water District officials said.

Officials identified 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2020 as the four hottest and driest summers in the past 12 years and compared it with this summer season. They found that water pumpage this summer declined, including a 14.4% decrease compared to the 2010 summer season, where the pumpage was at nearly 570 million gallons from June to the end of August.

To promote water conservation, the district implemented the Do It For Port campaign, which emphasizes educational workshops, clear requirements for water usage, engages local stakeholders and provides tools and financial incentives.

“Our real message is that water conservation can work, but it takes a community,” said Water District Commissioner Mindy Germain. “Long Island has a fragile supply of water, challenged by climate change and saltwater intrusion and contamination."

The district, which has 9,500 accounts and covers about 30,000 residents, has established clear guidelines, including a dedicated two-hour watering block, a 4-minute water cutback and requiring all new sprinklers systems to have a rain sensor and smart controller by 2025.

“This was a foundation we laid and we’re going to build off of that,” Germain said.

Local water providers urged water conservation this summer as Long Island experienced a record dry summer, including the driest August in 17 years due to below-normal rainfall, above-normal temperatures and low streamflow, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

This summer season, from June to the end of August, the Port Washington district reported 497 million gallons of water were pumped. The area only received about 7.17 inches of rain, according to the water district. In 2021, the calculated rainfall amount was about 22.84 inches.

Patricia Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, a science-based environmental health nonprofit seeking to inform the public, lauded the district’s water conservation campaign.

“They have definitely touched on the key problematic areas, which is during the summer everyone has their sprinkler system, and irrigation is critically important,” Wood said.

Wood noted that Long Islanders get their water from three major aquifers underneath Long Island that constitute a sole source aquifer. The aquifers are, from the shallowest to the deepest, the Upper Glacial, the Magothy and the Lloyd.

“A little bit more education, so that people understand that we are sitting on top of our sole source aquifers,” she said. “We don’t get water from anywhere else, just our groundwater."

Jase E. Bernhardt, associate professor of geology, environment, and sustainability at Hofstra University, said there's a lot of “uncertainty” with precipitation patterns for the future.

“We’re seeing precipitation is a bit more concentrated into larger events and there are longer times of less rain in between those events,” Bernhardt said. “This year is an example of that.”

Going ahead, he said, the dry conditions may be seen this winter.

“It looks like maybe a variable winter ahead,” he said. “Getting a snow cover could be a good thing as when it melts it could jump-start the spring.”

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