On the heels of the third-driest summer in U.S. history, the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority has requested that its customers voluntarily reduce water usage in their homes by 10 percent.
According to the RWA, a public water supply utility that provides water to cities across Connecticut, a 10 percent reduction in water usage will save between four and five million of the 45 million gallons of water per day distributed to almost 430,000 customers per day. Currently, RWA provides water to consumers in Ansonia, New Haven and Hamden, among other cities in Connecticut.
Even though the RWA’s reservoir is currently 10 percent above the advisory level, encouraging New Haven residents to cut back on water usage is prudent given the severity of the drought, said RWA Vice President of Asset Management Ted Norris. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows the majority of Connecticut to be in severe drought.
“Drought or no drought, we always encourage our customers to use water wisely,” RWA Communications Director Phil Vece said. “Water is essential to life, it’s a precious resource and it certainly shouldn’t be wasted.”
Most water utilities have enough supplies to carry them through a one year drought, but the second year of a severe drought is where water utilities may begin to have capacity issues, Norris said.
“November is normally the time of year when our reservoirs begin to refill but it doesn’t look like that will happen this year,” he added.
The RWA intends to keep the advisory and, if necessary, further enforce it until the drought ends. In the meantime, the organization plans to modify its requests to customers based on weather conditions and water demand.
According to Gil Simmons, chief meteorologist for WTNH Connecticut News, the current drought is one of the 10 most severe droughts in Connecticut history. He said even though meteorologists are starting to detect an accurate weather pattern for the coming months, it is difficult to know whether the drought will be over by the end of the year.
The RWA also advised New Haven residents to cut back on water usage in 2002, and considered similar regulations in 2007 and 2010. Before this, a comparable drought had not occurred since the 1930s.
According to Norris, the RWA believes the increase in droughts is linked to climate change, whether caused by normal climate fluctuations or human activities.
For residents to save water, the RWA recommends checking for dripping faucets, taking short showers instead of baths, washing only full loads of clothing and turning off the faucet while brushing teeth, among other practices.
“A little conservation by a lot of customers means a lot of water saved,” said Vece.
But it remains unclear how effective the advisory has been.
Two of three New Haven residents interviewed were not aware that Connecticut is currently in a drought, and none knew that the RWA had asked customers to voluntarily reduce water usage. However, all three said they actively try to conserve water in their homes.
“I don’t think people realize how severe [the drought] is,” Simmons said.
Norris and Vece both said the RWA’s request will likely not impact major businesses in New Haven. The majority of water consumption from the RWA comes from residences. Though commercial car washes recycle their water, most other businesses do not, Norris said.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the estimated population in drought areas is 3,574,093.
Correction, Oct. 17: Due to editing and transcription errors, a previous version of the article stated that reduced water usage will save between 4,000 and 5,000 of the 46,000 gallons of water distributed to Regional Water Authority consumers each day, when in fact between four and five million of 45 million gallons per day will be saved. In addition, the article incorrectly stated that the Regional Water Authority reservoir will refill in November, but that is not likely to happen this year.