Residents in Northampton, Massachusetts this week are banned from watering their lawns or washing their cars during daytime hours. But, this doesn’t necessarily mean the city has a water shortage.
Under an agreement with the State Department of Environmental Protection, when the flow of the Mill River drops below a certain point, Northampton must restrict water use. The move comes even though the city says water levels at its reservoirs are fine. David Boutt, a Geosciences Professor at UMass says it’s all tied together.
“Any community that has surface water supplies and reservoirs, captures a certain amount of water in those reservoirs that if they weren’t dammed, that water could be available for keeping the water levels high in the streams during the dryer months or the summer months for fish and plant life and various ecosystem services.”, Boutt says
In order for the water restrictions to be lifted, the Mill River’s flow must reach a certain rate for a week. Northampton residents who ignore the ban and water their lawns anyway are subject to a fine of at least $100. Westfield is the only other Western Massachusetts community with a water ban in place. That’s because the city is replacing water mains running from its reservoir.