Irrigation ban renewed: Despite storms, drought continues in Fairfield County

 Despite the piles of water in its frozen form everywhere, Darien is still one of several Fairfield towns suffering from an ongoing drought.

This prompted Darien’s Board of Selectmen to renew a state order for an irrigation ban barring most outdoor uses of water on Monday. The ban was enacted late last year in response to a public water supply emergency announced by the state Department of Public Health and Aquarion, the region’s water provider.

In a February report to the Department of Public Health, Aquarion stated that the local reservoir systems in Greenwich and Stamford were at 68 and 61%  full, respectively, significantly below their normal levels of approximately of 88%. According to Aquarion, the region had received only 14 inches of rainfall over the past 12 months. To compensate for the lack of rain, a ban on outdoor water use was put into place in Sept. 2016. In the time since, Aquarion has set a goal to help residents in Darien, Greenwich, Stamford in New Canaan reduce their water consumption by 20 percent. Darien’s water demands have been well below the 2013-2015 averages since the water supply emergency was first announced.

The Department of Public Health’s original order for an irrigation ban expired after a 150-day period, but was re-enacted on March 1. On Monday the Board of Selectmen renewed the local ban with fewer restrictions allowing residents to use water in limited quantities as the weather warms. The new order still bans using water to irrigate lawns and gardens or wash sidewalks, and allowing plumbing fixtures to leak water is still considered “unlawful.”

As of March 6, the Greenwich and Stamford reservoirs have shown a slight restoration in capacity, reaching 80.4 and 71.3%, respectively.  First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said Aquarion expects the Greenwich reservoir to be replenished by early Spring, but the Stamford reservoir remains underfilled. If the recent storms provide enough water to replenish the water supply, the ban will be lifted.

Those found to be in violation of the ban could be subject to a fine from the town’s Health Department. Once the ban is lifted Aquarion will move to a twice-weekly watering schedule, allowing residents to irrigate their property two days a week based on their address.

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