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With usage up, Riverhead Water District seeks $10M for projects

Riverhead Water District

The Riverhead Water District will need about $10 million to cover the cost of four projects it says are needed, in part due to high water usage from people and businesses watering their lawns with sprinklers and irrigation systems. 

The recent heat wave has put a strain on the water district, according to district superintendent Mark Conklin, who said the district was pumping about 20 million gallons per day recently.

The town has since issued a notice urging people to reduce lawn watering and restricting water to an odd-even number system, based on each person’s address, so that even street numbers can water on even numbered calendar days and vice-versa.

Mr. Conklin said the usage has dropped to about 15 million gallons per day since then.

Officials said many commercial properties have their sprinkler systems running between midnight and 8 a.m., something the town has asked residents not to do, because it reduces the district’s water pressure.

Officials have suggested residents water between 6 p.m. and midnight instead.

“The ability to fight fires and maintain pressure takes a so much higher precedent that green lawns and beautiful landscaping,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

While some businesses have private wells for watering, Mr. Conklin said about half of the shopping centers in town use town water for irrigation.

The district this year is planning to create a “capital project” fund for big projects like these, and that fund would be created using the money the district receives from cell phone companies that lease space on district towers.

The town expects to receive about $503,000 from renting tower space in 2016, according to its budget.

The water district also plans to raise some of its rates to offset what officials say have been an average deficit of about $320,000 for each of the past five years.

Water District Wish List

• The top priority sought by the district is a new 2 million gallon ground storage tank with a booster pump on Plant 15 off Tuthills Lane in Jamesport.

The areas of Sound Avenue and parts of Herricks Lane, Manor Lane and Church Lane experience low water pressure during peak water demand periods, officials say. The new tank will provide the district with an additional water supply during high demand, and it can be refilled during low water demand times, according to John Collins, an engineering consultant from H2M, who, along with Mr. Conklin, discussed the district needs at Thursday’s Town Board work session. 

“A storage tank at Plant 15 is needed immediately,” Mr. Walter said.

The estimated cost of this project is $3.75 million.

• The next highest priority is the construction of a new interconnection with the Suffolk County Water Authority at the border with Brookhaven Town, and a new water transmission main to connect to existing Riverhead Water District facilities at the intersection of Wading River-Manor Road.

The SCWA has committed to supply Riverhead with up to 2 million gallons per day from this interconnect to help supply water to the Enterprise Park at Calverton, Mr. Collins said.

The estimated cost of this project is $700,000.

• The third highest priority, and one that is not planned immediately, is the construction of a 2 million gallon, high pressure zone storage tank and booster facility somewhere in the western part of the town, such as EPCAL or Edwards Avenue, Mr. Collins said.

This tank also would be filled during low demand hours and would supply additional water during high demand.

This project has an estimated price tag of about $4.35 million.

• The last project the Water District seeks is a new supply well at Plant 17 on Northville Turnpike. But Town Board members questioned whether that’s the best location.

Plant 17, which was built around 2000 and is one of the district’s “top producing wells,” had to have its production scaled back this year because of “upconing” of salt water from the ground, according to Mr. Collins. The district had to cut back from about 1,400 gallons pumped per minute to about 600 gallons per minute at Plant 17 because of the upconing.

Officials say there are also a lot of private irrigation wells in this area that are also pumping the groundwater.

“I’m a little weary of putting another well in there,” Mr. Walter said, citing the salt water upconing.

H2M is proposing to install a shallower well than the one already at the Northville Turnpike to reduce the possibility of upconing, Mr. Collins said. The shallower well would also reduce the demand on the existing one, he said.

Officials suggested a site along Middle Road or Route 58 for the new well if the Northville Turnpike location is rejected.

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