Voluntary odd/even water ban now in effect

by susan on June 27, 2012

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The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last night to impose a voluntary odd/even water restriction starting immediately and running through September 22. Under the ban, outside water use is restricted based on your house number, so odd-numbered houses use water on odd-numbered days, and even-numbered houses use water on even-numbered days.

Southborough has adopted the voluntary ban for several years now in an effort to even out demand on the water system during the peak summer months. It’s also an attempt to meet the state water use guideline of 65 gallons per day per resident.

In its annual water quality report released earlier this month, the Department of Public Works said despite pumping a relatively low amount of water into its distribution system last year, Southborough still failed to meet the per resident usage set out by the Water Management Act (WMA).

“Summer 2011 saw above average precipitation, lowering water usage throughout Town by 18% when compared to a dry 2010,” the DPW wrote. “The Town only pumped 306 million gallons (MG) of water into our distribution system in 2011, the lowest quantity Southborough has pumped since 1996. However, even with this low water usage, Southborough residents did not meet the WMA standard of 65 gal/day in 2011.”

What do you think of the water ban? Do you observe it? What other strategies do you use to conserve water in the summertime? Do you think Southborough should be doing more to reduce water use in town? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

(Photo posted to Flickr by Kumaravel)

1 SB Resident June 27, 2012 at 3:42 PM

I’m going to put my republican hat on here and say why does the government feel that it is necessary to meddle in my water usage? If we want more water and are willing to pay for it who’s business is that? I find it ironic that we have this discussion with what is generally considered “the most abundant resource on earth.”

So, no I don’t observe the water ban. However, I don’t believe in waste either, I do try to water my lawn just enough that it doesn’t burn out. I want to do this when it needs it and when I have time, without worrying about what day it is.

2 djd66 June 27, 2012 at 5:10 PM

I will not be observing the water ban either,… my sprinklers will continue to run 3 hrs a day! I agree SB Resident. 60% of our town is taken up by reservoirs that we can’t use for anything. (part of the reason why our property taxes are so high in this town) There is plenty of water. I don’t understand why watering my lawn is wasteful?? When I water the lawn, the water ends up in the ground and flows right back into the system. Bottom line, the town is offering to sell me water + I pay for it – very simple economic principle.

3 Al Hamilton June 27, 2012 at 5:42 PM

Until you brought the subject up I was not aware that the various parties had positions on our private water use. Boy was I wrong. I did some investigation and found:


Your water rate will be a function of your income and socioeconomic status. Detailed filings on this subject are mandatory. Southborough residents will not be permitted to water their lawns except on days when the product of a last digit of their drivers licenses and their age is prime. Residents may only bathe twice a week using no more that 12.3 liters of water issued from a state approved shower head. All of Southboroughs excess water will be used to help less fortunate communities who are much more deserving. Union members will be exempt.


We will never raise your water rates regardless of what it costs. It will be illegal for illegal aliens to drink water. The defense of water act will make it illegal to consume water for the purpose of taking contraceptives unless done so by a married couple (one man and one woman of course) who will have a copy of their marriage license available at all times to show the bedroom police. Any use of water when mixed with Scotch will be exempt.


Bugger off, I have my own well.

4 Frank Crowell June 29, 2012 at 3:06 PM

Actually Al, I think you could expand on this even further.


If the rules are not followed or if you are found not to comply, the town will charge you a fee (not to be confused with a tax) equal to 10% of your property tax. In the future when this is legally challenged and it reaches the Supreme Court, the government will argue it is a fee and a slim court majority view will determine that it is a tax making it legal. 


All of them will speak about individual freedom but when they get in will bend to the will of the government/over educated elites and the main stream media (sorry, repeated myself there).

Me – I am watering the lawn and applying for carbon credits.

5 concerned June 27, 2012 at 8:41 PM

I will be observing the water ban. Some will never realize the importance of conservation, or modify their behavior to maintain resources in the long-term for our community and for those that surround us. Hopefully, the rest of us can pull their waste/weight. For those who care, let’s do what we can now, and set a good example for future Southborough generations. Perhaps the Board of Selectmen would be kind enough to share on this site their reasons for imposing the voluntary ban.

From EPA – New England Site:
“Many communities in New England are wrestling with the challenge of supporting growth and its associated demand for safe drinking water and wastewater disposal, without depleting aquifers and reducing stream flows. As land development continues in New England, it is becoming increasingly difficult to balance these needs and some areas are experiencing water shortages, reduced stream flow and degraded water quality.

Water conservation is an important tool for reducing water demand, and limiting water use should be an everyday practice for people and businesses in New England. Water efficiency measures can lead to significant reductions in water and sewer costs. Many guides are available which describe ways that residences and businesses can conserve water. In many instances, water is wasted by old habits, like leaving the water running when we brush our teeth, and using old appliances like toilets which were built before conservation standards took effect. Water conservation may require changing old habits and re-thinking the way we do things. “

6 M June 27, 2012 at 8:54 PM

Jeesh. Where do I start? SBResident, you may be in error in thinking that water is the “most abundant resource on earth”. I don’t believe that is widely believed, especially when one thinks about clean drinking water. Or perhaps you’d best check the news of Colorado’s wild fires tonight and understand that water availability differs greatly from one region of this planet to another.
djd66, 3 hours a day!?? are you serious? I hope that’s a joke. You would be sending your water payments down the proverbial drain. And I’ll bet you like putting extensive chemicals on the lawn too which are then being washed into our water system. If you want to drink this water, it has to be treated. The treatment costs money. That supply is therefore limited.
There are so many problems with this discussion thread that it boggles the mind. But Al didn’t help at all. Snide remarks that added nothing. Further assumptions and division of a political nature, which is adding to all our problems in this country instead of helping to solve them.
I won’t have to adhere to the ban because I don’t have a sprinkler system. I have trees to shade the lawn from severe sun. I mow higher which is healthier for the grass in the heat and also chokes out weeds. I use water saver appliances thoughout my house. And I support causes that provide clean water filtering systems to needed areas in the world.

7 Al Hamilton June 28, 2012 at 7:58 AM


Sorry you do not appreciate my sense of humor. I will attempt to be far dryer and stick to the facts.

SB resident is basically correct in his observation, at least as it applies to the North East, we are blessed with ample rain fall and a very robust water supply system. In the past 7 years the Quabbin has been no lower than 87% of its capacity and most of the time it is full or within a few percent of full. The same can be said of the Wachusetts reservoir although its minimum reading was about 85%.

What we have is a distribution problem. The pipe feeding Southborough has a fixed capacity. The Southborough distribution system has a capacity far in excess of the feed pipe. The water tanks in town serve 2 purposes. First they are a buffer, filling at night and draining down during the day as demand exceeds the capacity of the supply pipe. Secondly, we have a gravity fed system and the height of the water in the tank provides the required pressure. The capacity of the tanks is far less than the desired optimal capacity.


During the summer the demand peaks and can exceed the capacity of the feed pipe and the tanks. The nightmare scenario is very low tanks with lots of watering going on and then a major fire in town. A fire truck can pump water like crazy. (picture the police and dpw running around town turning sprinkers off so we can fight a fire)

So, the principle reason for a water ban is not a shortage of clean water. We really do have an excellent supply. The reason is to spread out the peak demand so that there is enough water and water pressure for everyone.

For the record, I mow high and let my lawn turn brown in the summer. I rarely water it. I am served by a well and I am a libertarian.

8 Mark Ford June 28, 2012 at 2:44 PM

And a funny libertarian at that, Al. I for one laughed at your earlier post, and recognized it for the humor that it was. Sheesh!

A cogent summary of our water situation. I’ll add also that with John Butler’s leadership, we have a system that charges more for heavy water usage.

As a drive-by will attest, my lawn is brown and long (which is to say it usually needs to be mowed).

9 Resident July 23, 2012 at 9:03 AM

@M, great post. I agree with everything you wrote.

10 Greg June 28, 2012 at 7:03 AM

If only there existed some mechanism by which we could limit people’s use of limited resources.

We could give people “tokens”, which they in turn give to the town / MWRA in exchange for using water. We could give people these “tokens” for performing difficult work, or providing goods or services to people, so that the tokens themselves have value to people. We could require more tokens in exchange for larger amounts of water, and increase the number of tokens required during periods when water is especially limited.

Heck, if this worked for water, we could apply the same principle to other limited resources — electricty, lobsters, diamonds, etc. They could even all use the same tokens so that people can make trade-offs that make sense for them.

Nah, that would never work in the real world. Odd/even bans are a much better idea.

11 Al Hamilton June 28, 2012 at 10:17 AM

It would never work, conservatives would complain that state issued “tokens” smacked of socialism and liberals would describe the whole system as tokenism.

Maybe we could barter for our water.

12 Matthew June 28, 2012 at 8:34 AM

Does the town allow the use of gray water for lawn and garden use? I thought I read somewhere that there may be some restrictions…a simple diverter system from most kitchen sinks and dishwashers or showers would reduce the load on our septic systems and give us plenty to water our lawns and gardens. Lower or eliminated fertilizer costs could probably offset the cost of plumbing modifications.

“The hair, lint, food particles, kitchen oils, soaps, and detergents, found in graywater are all fertilizers for plants, and are readily absorbed by plant roots.” – http://nutricyclesystems.com/?page_id=12

A lot of commedians joke about how America has F’d up water. Used to be fine out of the tap and now bottled water costs 1000X what tap water cost.

Any input from the Green Committee? Can we get a town building to use a gray water paid for by some State or Federal grant?

13 Diane Romm June 28, 2012 at 9:02 AM

I love that picture! How great! (As for the water ban, we’re on Framingham’s water system and, quite frankly, I don’t know whether they have any restrictions right now or not. I’ll have to look.)

14 Wendy July 22, 2012 at 8:35 PM

We have a private well and we water our garden a couple of times a week from it. My family has always been frugal with water usage and were quite surprised when someone approached him to inform him of the water ban. Is it true that we can water anytime we want if it is from the well? Thanks

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