Coronavirus stresses limited water supply
Water usage is higher than in past years — and some of the increase can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic — creating concern reminiscent of the 2016 drought.
Less rain and more residential water use combine, spurring concern over the valuable commodity.
“Water usage is higher than in years past is partially because of COVID,” Peter Fazekas, director of corporate communications for the Aquarion Water Co., said.
Increased hand washing may have some impact on increased water usage, but the spike in “water usage is driven mostly by outdoor watering” because people are home and “looking at their lawns,” Fazekas explained.
People are doing more yard work, planting more shrubs, and bringing home small pop-up pools, according to Fazekas.
“Can’t find them in the stores,” Fazekas said of pools.
This year’s rainfall for over the prior 60 days in Stamford as of June 26, was 4.4 inches, compared to the 10-year average rainfall of 8.4 in., for the same 60 days.
Water demand, on the other hand, is up to near the past record of 140 million gallons per day (mgd) in 2010, at 130 mgd, in Connecticut, Fazekas said.
New Canaan has recently seen an uptick in water usage to nearly 3.25 mgd, while most of last summer remained below 2.5 mgd, according to a graph on the Aquarion website.
So far this year, New Canaan is ahead of water usage during 2016 drought, when the shortage of water prompted Aquarion to institute the two-day irrigation restrictions for 2017.
As a result, six towns — New Canaan, Darien, Greenwich, Newtown, Stamford and Westport — have permanent mandatory two-day water restrictions since 2017, and the company will add others to list when needed, Fazekas also said.
In New Canaan, water usage is higher than in larger towns, but that does not reflect all residents’ water usage.
In 2015, 79 percent of water was used by the top 50 percent of users in New Canaan, while some residents “are very efficient,” with the bottom 50 percent of residents using 21 percent of the water, Fazekas said.
“The goal is not to get rid of irrigation, but rather to use water efficiently,” which sometimes means upgrading irrigation systems, since new irrigation systems are more efficient than old ones, he said.
Consumers may see their tap water discolored because high demand leads to high velocity which can cause low water pressure and temporary water discoloration. Water moving quickly through the pipes stirs up minerals that are usually sitting on the bottom of water mains.
“If a consumer leaves a pitcher of water siting, the minerals will drop to the bottom,” Fazekas said.
The website, aquarionwater.com offers tips for conserving water.
If the water usage continues to rise, then the twice weekly restrictions will be reduced to once a week and if that isn’t enough, Aquarion may restrict outdoor irrigation all together, Fazekas said.
There are variances to the two times a week watering restrictions. On big properties it is “difficult to water everything in two days,” and if the home owners commit to reducing the overall amount of water they use, they can get a reprieve, Fazekas said.
Also people can get a variance for planting new greenery September to June, again, if the resident commits to reducing overall amount of water.
That variance is not issued during July and August because the warmer months are not an “ideal time to plant shrubs or grass because they require a tremendous amount of water,” Fazekas said.
One way residents can reduce their overall water usage is by installing higher efficiency water systems, which can save up to 40 percent of water.
Ways to reduce water use
People can reduce use of watch with drip irrigation, soaker hoses, and place water near the roots.
Fixing leaky faucets, irrigation systems and toilets can save the valuable resource, for example, fixing a leaky toilet can cut water usage by almost 20 percent, according to the Aquarion website.
Trimming a minute off the length of one’s daily shower can save up to 550 gallons of water a year. Showering accounts for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use. This can add up to 40 gallons per day for the average family.
Turning off the water while lathering up, shaving, or brushing teeth can conserve H2O instead of letting it go down the drain.
Submerging a plastic bottle or two filled with sand inside each toilet tank can result in less water wasted.
Upgrading to water-efficient showerheads since standard showerheads use 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), can have a positive impact. WaterSense labeled showerheads use no more than 2.0 gpm. The average family could save 2,900 gallons per year just by installing WaterSense labeled showerheads, according to the website.
Using a pitcher to chill drinking water instead of running water until it is cold, is more efficient.
Sweeping driveways, steps, and sidewalks instead of hosing and placing the sprinkler properly so it is not watering the sidewalk or driveway. avoids waste.
Saving water that would otherwise run down the drain — including cooking and dehumidifier water — can be used to hydrate plants.
Insulating hot water pipes will prevent evaporation.