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Watering lawns will be restricted to odd/even days in Riverhead Town

Customers of the Riverhead Water District will now be mandated to follow an odd-even policy for activities like watering lawns, filling up pools and washing cars.

“We are at a pretty critical point in our district,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said. “I sent out a press release last Friday asking for voluntary ‘odd-even’ days as far as watering and irrigation and so on.”

But Ms. Giglio said that at the request of water district superintendent Frank Mancini, these and other water conservation measures will now be mandatory, in order to keep the wells going. 

The odd-even system means that water customers with an address ending in an odd number can only water lawns and yards, fill pools, wash cars and the like on odd-numbered dates. 

Other water conservation measures taking effect will prohibit all lawn watering between 5 and 9 a.m. and 5 and 9 p.m.

Officials say the best times to water lawns is between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Those restrictions will apply regardless of whether it’s an odd- or even-numbered day. 

“This is something we have to do in order to have clean water to drink and to shower with,” Ms. Giglio said.

A unanimous Town Board approved the mandatory conservation restrictions by resolution Tuesday. 

“Alternate days will not kill the grass,” said Councilman Frank Beyrodt, who is in the sod business. “When it gets brown, it’s just dormant and watering it will green it back up.”

Ms. Giglio said watering and irrigation appear to be a big problem and it’s emptying out the wells, especially in the Wading River area. 

“We take a big hit from about 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,” Mr. Mancini said. “You can still have a lawn and a garden, but I just think that people are irrigating too much.

“On a normal June, the district pumps about 270 million gallons, and this year in June it pumped 460 million gallons of water,” he said. “That’s a tremendous increase. We have our equipment running 24 hours per day, and we expect it to run for the next two months without shutting down at all. About 70% of our wells never shut off for three months straight. The irrigation demand is increasing at a rate faster than we are able to develop our supply.”

If the town can’t meet the demand, Mr. Mancini said, the town doesn’t have enough inter-connections to feed the system from neighboring systems. 

If the town has a failure, it will shut down some of the bigger users, he said. 

Mr. Mancini said 75% of their water is used for irrigation in the summer, and that the demands drops in the winter to about 90 million gallons per month. 

In addition to irrigation, another possible reason for increased water use is the influx of people of coming to the area due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The town also plans to revise its capital spending plans for the water district in order to make building a new well the top priority. 

The Town Board also plans to hold a public hearing Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 2 p.m. on a proposal to incorporate water conservation measures into landscape designs. 

The proposal would apply to new single-family, two-family or multi-family residences and to additions or renovation of existing residences.

New site plans or special permits also must comply with the proposed restrictions. 

The proposal would require all landscape designs to dedicate at least 15% of the total landscaped area to drought-tolerant or low water-using plans.

New landscape designs calling for new irrigation systems will be required to use low-volume irrigation and smart irrigation controllers that can shut off when rain is detected.