The Hopkinton Director of Public Works ended the Mandatory State of Water Supply Conservation (water ban) on January 19, 2017, for all customers connected to the municipal water system. He said that this action was the result of the recent change in drought status to our area, the return of ground water to normal levels, and consultation with officials in the town of Ashland regarding the water levels in the Hopkinton Reservoir.
Hopkinton along with 97% of Massachusetts is still in a “Moderate Drought” as of March 14, 2017. This is a significant improvement from the start of the water season in the fall of 2016, when 98% of Massachusetts was in “Severe Drought” or worse, with over 50% in “Extreme Drought.” However last year at this time, 79% of Massachusetts had no drought at all, while 20% was “Abnormally Dry.” Stay tuned into this issue.
Approximately 70% of residents are on municipal water.
Our municipal water supply comes from eight wells within Hopkinton. Depending on the water supply available in our eight wells versus our demand for water, Hopkinton also purchases water from Ashland that comes from two wells located on Wilson Street near Hopkinton State Park. Our access to these two wells is part of a 25 year agreement between Hopkinton and Ashland.
Hopkinton has seven years left in our water agreement with Ashland. Hopkinton has a good relationship with Ashland that is mutually beneficial to the two towns.
Ashland is considering connecting to the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) through Southborough which would reduce their reliance on their Wilson Street wells, thereby freeing up more of their well water for Hopkinton’s use.
At Town Meeting 2016 residents voted to pay $1,000,000 to partner with the Town of Ashland to share their capital cost associated with their connection to the MWRA. We did this with the goal of helping to reduce Ashland’s reliance on their Wilson Street wells in order to free up that well water for Hopkinton.
We will not be getting water directly from the MWRA through Ashland. Ashland has separate pipes for Hopkinton water. Our water supply from Ashland will continue to come from their two Wilson Street wells.
Hopkinton has chosen the plan above because we do not have water lines near the Southborough border, which means the cost of our connecting directly to the MWRA is prohibitive and not an option at this point.
Hopkinton’s $1,000,000 contribution to Ashland’s future connection to the MWRA is one piece of the financial puzzle needed to pay for their connection. The total cost of making the connection will be about $3-5 million, part of which will be paid by grants, part paid by Hopkinton’s $1M contribution, and the bulk paid by Ashland.
The Town of Ashland will vote in November 2016 on whether to fund the bulk of the cost to connect to the MWRA. If they vote no, then Hopkinton will not provide the approved $1M to Ashland and we will not gain the benefit of increased water supply from Ashland’s Wilson Street wells.
The MWRA gets water mainly from the Quabbin Reservoir in Western Massachusetts. The MWRA is a great clean water source, but it is expensive to get into. The state would have to approve any inter-basin connections.
Two of Hopkinton’s wells, #4 and #5 on Spring Street, contain a lot of iron and manganese. These are not harmful minerals to our health, but they can cause water discoloration that will brown laundry. Hopkinton does not use these two wells except in times of drought. Hopkinton would like to filter wells #4 & #5 to remove the iron & manganese, but this would cost millions of dollars for a treatment plant and pipes.
At Town Meeting 2016 residents voted to approve $50,000 for apilot program to test biological filtration of wells #4 & #5. If the program is successful, 828,000 gallons per day of water can become available reducing our need to purchase water from Ashland. However, the DPW’s priority right now is to increase our water supply by helping Ashland connect to the MRWA rather than filtering our backup wells through a new multi-million dollar treatment plant.
If Ashland connects to MWRA, this would be an easier and less costly solution for Hopkinton. We wouldn’t have to go forward with the treatment plant for wells #4 and #5.
In addition to the town’s eight municipal wells, there are nine other public water supplies in town (such as Carbone’s, Laborer’s Day Training, and Hopkinton Country Club Golf Course). They all have their own permits from MassDEP specifying the number of gallons they can use per day.
Residents on the municipal water supply are subject to annual water restrictions and even stricter bans during times of drought. They are subject to fines for non-compliance with posted restrictions. First offense of non-compliance is a warning, second offense is a $100 fine, third offense is a $100 fine or termination of water supply.
The town is challenged due to drought and growth, with new developments such as Hopkinton Mews.
The MassDEP looks at the big picture of water use for the whole state.
Hopkinton is currently permitted by the MassDEP to withdraw 1.21 million gallons per day.
MassDEP will likely ask us to decrease our gallons per day next time our permit is renewed. We have already applied for our renewed permit and are waiting to hear back from MassDEP.
The town is constantly looking to fix leaks in Hopkinton’s public water system. The town used to have about 28% unaccounted for water loss, now it is down to about 15% unaccounted for water loss.
What We Learned about Private Water
Approximately 30-35% of the community is on private water. For individuals on private water, it is their responsibility to provide safe water. They need to test their water quality regularly. They are not affected by the town water restrictions/bans, but are responsible for their own water conservation. If their private well runs dry they are responsible for digging a new well or providing their own water. Options include:
Digging a deeper well
Digging into a different water source
Hydro-fracking to increase crack where water is coming from. Hydro-fracking can release contaminants.
The Board of Health recently requested that 80 properties with private wells comply with the outdoor water ban, because they are close to our public water shed areas (within Zone #2).
With private water supplies, it is very hard to know how your water use impacts neighbors. Neighbors are not always on the same aquifer, their wells may be different depths.
Homeowners can have water storage tanks on site, so they have some water in reserve. Homeowners should research the original well at the time the house was built to make sure it is deep enough for long term usage needs of home. Demand for water per household has increased in recent years due in part of automatic sprinklers.
The town doesn’t have the ability to ban watering from private wells or levy fines due to property owner rights under state law. However the town and citizens can raise awareness of the need to conserve without levying fines.
Neighborhoods could potentially tap into town water in the future, depending on how far they are from the next public water supply pipes. This is not a realistic option for a neighborhood miles from the water supply, due to the expense.
There are no subsidies that our speakers were aware of to help homeowners with the expense of digging a new well or obtaining clean water in the meantime.
The Board of Health will work to grant well digging permits ASAP in the case of emergency.
If a whole neighborhood is having water shortages, it was suggested that the neighbors come to the Board of Health together rather than one at a time.
The town recommends (but cannot require) private well owners follow the outdoor water ban to get through the drought.
Other Facts & Information
The DPW Director assured us that despite the drought Hopkinton has enough water for fire emergencies.
Parks & Rec
Parks & Recreation voted to stop watering the Town Common and the Athletics fields in September.
The State monitors all the reservoirs and streams.
Hopkinton has had over two years of below average rain fall.
Water conservation kits are available at stores.
Weston Nurseries & Angel’s Garden Center have information about drought tolerant planting.
See eHop’s Spotlight on Water handout for water conservation tips.
The town has 20 year projections for estimated water use needs.
All new buildings approved recently have been required to reclaim water from impervious surfaces, such as concrete, during permitting/planning process. This is in order to recharge the aquifer with storm-water. In the past, storm water was either sent in pipes to the ocean or sent to a detention pond.
Attempts to curb growth in the past by not bringing public water supplies to all parts of town, were not successful. Developers and homeowners just built private wells and still built homes, which has resulted in more private water sources that cannot be regulated by the town.
If the town accepts streets in new developments as public roads, then the town is responsible for storm-water recharge, otherwise the neighborhood association is responsible.
Help shape town water policies. Reach out to key leaders and participate in board/committee meetings.
If you want to change the water ban penalties, petition a warrant for Town Meeting using the Guide for Citizen Petitioners found on the town website.
Provide input into Hopkinton’s Master Plan. The Master Plan is a blueprint for physical growth and future development. It includes goals and recommendations for Land Use, Natural and Cultural Resources, Housing and Economic Development, Community Facilities and Services and Transportation.
Master Plan public hearing on November 21 at 7:35 PM at Town Hall
Email feedback to the Dept of Land Use, Planning & Permitting, contact: Elaine Lazarus, Director of Land Use and Town Operations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 508.497.9700.
When lawn watering is allowed, water early in the morning before sunrise when temps and wind are down. Don’t water between 9 – 5 pm. Water once every 5 – 7 days – that’s all that a lawn needs.
Turn auto-sprinklers to off setting and manually control them. They should not be set to auto. Check positioning and operation of all sprinkler heads (so they’re not watering pavement). Make sure heads aren’t leaking.
Install a rain sensor device on auto-sprinklers that will adjust the irrigation cycle on the sprinklers when adequate rainfall happens.
Raise lawn mower blade to at least 3 inches. Longer grass holds moisture and shades the soil.
Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn off sprinklers.
Choose native plants or plants that need less water. Minimize areas of grass.
Group plantings according to water needs to maximize efficiency of irrigation. Use mulch to reduce evaporation.
A hose left running wastes 6 gallons per minute.
Collect water in trash barrel from downspout under your gutters. Then take watering can to dip in and water your plants.
Turn off and drain the water supply to your outside faucets during the winter so that they don’t freeze and split.
Only use dishwasher and washing machine with full loads.
Take shorter showers, 5 min or less.
Fix leaking faucets, pipes, and toilets: The average US family can save 10,000 gallons of water a year by fixing leaks. Dripping faucets can waste 20 gallons per day.
Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth and save 200 gallons of water a month.
A leaking toilet can waste 200 gallons per day. Check your toilet. Toilets are the number one culprit for water loss in the home and waste an incredible amount of water. Check for leaks by putting food coloring in the tank and waiting a half hour. If the water changes color in the bowl, you have a leak.
Avoid using your toilet as a waste basket. Every flush takes 2 – 7 gallons of water.
Put a brick in your toilet tank to save a gallon of water per flush.
If you have an older 6 gallon per flush toilet, think about replacing it with the new efficient 1.6 gallons per flush toilet.
Buy front loading washing machines and save over 40% in water consumption.
Create a kitchen compost bin as an alternative to using the garbage disposal.
Collect and reuse clean household water (water running while you wait for the shower to get hot, leftover water from cleaning veggies, etc).
Every time you rinse a milk jug, don’t pour it down the drain, use it to water potted plants. Water with a little milk makes great fertilizer.
Overseeing our water-related concerns takes a team effort. Use the grid below as a starting point for contact info, depending on your area of interest. For specific contact emails/phone numbers, please check the town or school department websites.
Hopkinton ground water levels are down 4.5’* and residents are feeling the impact.
Amidst continuing extreme drought conditions, eHop has announced that it will hold a public forum titled, eHop’s Spotlight on Water, on Friday, October 28 at 9:45 am – 11 :00 am at Bittersweet, 28 Main Street, Hopkinton. Hopkinton is 20” below normal levels of precipitation and the town’s dense bedrock is hindering the underground flow of limited water. As a result, some private wells are running dry and the town is readying its backup wells. The drought has many people asking how private and public water sources are connected, how water use should be prioritized, and what emergency plans are in place. eHop’s Spotlight on Water will address these questions.
“New England has always been thought of as water rich. I think that attitude has to change. We are at a point now where this is a community situation, whether it’s town water or well water, it’s going to take everybody’s part in order for us to get through this and make it out to the other side.” – Eric Carty, Water/Sewer Superintendent of Hopkinton. John Westerling, Hopkinton’s Director of Public Works, and Ed Wirtanen, Hopkinton’s Board of Health Director, will be featured panelists at the forum. “Water concerns everyone in town: residents, businesses, schools, emergency response and more. Our goal is to educate residents about the water supply in Hopkinton, engage them in a dialogue about water conservation, and empower them to take action.” – Amanda Fargiano, eHop Board Member.
eHop is a Hopkinton based 501(c)(4) non-profit whose mission is to provide timely and factual information about key town matters with the goal of increasing government transparency and fostering civic engagement.
* As of 9/20/16 Hopkinton ground water levels are down 4.5’