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As SCWA urges East End residents to cut back water use, Riverhead Water District says its holding up well

While the Suffolk County Water Authority has declared a water emergency in the East End towns it supplies — Southold, Shelter Island, Southampton and East Hampton — the Town of Riverhead, which has its own water district, has maintained its capacity this summer, according to Frank Mancini, superintendent of the Riverhead Water District.

“We did very well all summer,” he said. “We suspect that this is because of our past conservation efforts. We have not had an issue.”

More than 90% of Riverhead’s residents are connected to the town water district, Mr. Mancini said. And, he added, while Riverhead has the most farms on the East End, said all of them use private wells. 

One problem area is in Manorville, which is not connected to town water and is near the district’s boundaries.

The Riverhead Water District will soon have what’s known as a “two-tier” rate structure, which would require higher volume users to pay at a higher rate. Customers using more than 80,000 gallons per quarter must pay the higher rate, Mr. Mancini said.

Under the two-tier system, rates for the lower tier will increase from $1.78 to $1.95 per thousand gallons. Rates for the higher tier, which take effect once a customer exceeds the quarterly tier-one threshold, will be $2.75 per thousand gallons.

Currently, the $1.78 rate applies no matter how much water is consumed.

The current rate is already scheduled to increase to $1.83 per thousand gallons on Oct. 1, under rates approved by the Town Board in 2020.

Mr. Mancini said peak usage of town water occurs between 1 and 8 a.m., when automatic irrigation systems are on. 

Elsewhere on the East End, SCWA is urging residents to cut back on water usage because of a severe drought and a Stage 1 emergency. They have asked users to stop all irrigation between midnight and 7 a.m., reduce shower times and refrain from non-essential water use. 

SCWA has no policing power and does not levy fines or penalties, according to Joe Pokorny, its deputy CEO for operations. He said conservation is voluntary.

He noted that wells on the East End are smaller and there are fewer of them. 

“Couple that with the big increase in summer population and excessive water use and you have the right combination for what we are seeing now,” he said. “We continue to add to our infrastructure on the East End but we still need help from the public when the weather is this hot and dry for so long.”