Long Island water suppliers took their campaign to reduce water consumption straight to customers Wednesday, in some cases delivering notices to homes or handing them out to those sprinkling lawns in violation of conservation advisories in effect this week.
The face-to-face outreach, which doesn't involve issuing penalties or fines, marks a ratcheting up of a drive this week by Long Island water districts to stop nonessential uses like lawn watering and car washing as they struggle with arid conditions and high demand.
Bill Varley, president of Long Island American Water, which has 75,000 customers in southwestern Nassau County, said two employees had issued 300 notices by about 4 p.m. Wednesday and the patrols would continue into the night.
Notices were left either at the homes of customers using sprinklers or handed to people seen in violation of his company's restrictions, which took effect Tuesday afternoon. That evening, about 160 notices were given out, Varley said.
"We've seen some decrease in the demand," he said, "but still nothing near what we should be experiencing. We have also a reverse 911 message to our customers informing them of the restrictions."
Some districts said demand continued to put severe strains on their systems Wednesday, while others reported they had stabilized or seen a modest improvement. Dennis Kelleher, public relations chairman for the Long Island Water Conference, which includes representatives from the region's major suppliers, said the situation is improving but remains serious. "On my drive in this morning, my neighbors, everybody, is still irrigating," Kelleher said. "It's bothersome, but some people have heard us."
The Suffolk County Water Authority, which has 1.2 million customers, Wednesday experienced a lessening of overall demand on the East End, which had been a trouble spot, said spokesman Paddy South. Yet, demand continued to be high in Southampton, where authority employees were going door-to-door Wednesday delivering notices to customers advising them to cut back.
The issue for water districts isn't a lack of supply. There's plenty of water in the aquifer that serves Long Island. But district systems have a limited capacity to extract water and meet demand. Of particular concern is the need to maintain enough pressure in water systems to fight fires.
The Town of Hempstead Department of Water was also taking a direct approach to outreach Wednesday with meter readers giving notices to violators they came across in its six water districts: Point Lookout-Lido, Uniondale, East Meadow, Levittown, Roosevelt Field and Bowling Green Estates. There are 36,000 customers in those districts.
And in the Jericho Water District, with more than 18,000 customers, between eight and 12 workers were being readied Wednesday afternoon to work overnight shifts and give notices to those found watering lawns, said business manager Kathleen Cannon.
"The message right now is stop watering until further notice," Cannon said. "We need a significant amount of rainfall, and when that happens we will send out notices telling people they can go back to watering."
With Evan Klonsky