Wellesley outdoor watering restrictions to come with a bit of ‘enforcement’

Wellesley put outdoor watering restrictions in place last spring after detecting elevated levels of forever chemicals (PFAS) in the public water supply. Many complied, some did not. Those sprinkler systems do have minds of their own.

The town has put the same restrictions in place this year, effective this week, but with a new twist: Some enforcement thanks to the new water meters that have been installed across much of town.

“We really didn’t do much enforcement last year, it was more of an awareness-level,” Department of Public Works Director Dave Cohen said during a recent Board of Public Works meeting. “This year we’ll be doing a little bit more outreach. Now that we’ve got 95% of the meters installed we have some live, real-time data about our usage. We hope to use that to help us with our outreach and our enforcement, to get people to follow along with the program.”

I followed up with Cohen on that matter of enforcement.

“I’m expecting that our ‘enforcement’ this year will include more targeted messaging, encouragement, and support to help folks comply.  We now have over 95% of the Town on the new meter system so we have the ability to identify use on the wrong day and then follow up with targeted outreach.  That will include door hangers, mailings, and even phone calls to our largest users if necessary.   We’re also launching the new water customer portal soon and we’ll look to use that system to provide messages and information to help get compliance with the restrictions.

“One additional area we’re checking into is working with irrigation service companies to see if they might be a helpful resource in getting irrigation systems set up in harmony with the restrictions.”

The town does have the ability to issue warnings and even fines for violations, but Cohen says he doesn’t expect to go down that road unless Wellesley winds up in a drought emergency.

Outdoor Water Use Alternate Day Restrictions

Based upon street address numbers, nonessential outdoor water use is allowed according to the following schedule:

• Odd numbered addresses are restricted to Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

• Even numbered addresses are restricted to Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

• Nonessential outdoor use of water on Monday is prohibited.

Nonessential outdoor watering hours are restricted to before 9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m. Outdoor watering is prohibited during the daytime to ensure adequate water supply for typical essential uses and to avoid loss through evaporation.

Essential uses of water are:

• For health and safety reasons

• Irrigation to establish a new lawn and new plantings between the months of May and September

• Agricultural operations to maintain livestock and crops

• Irrigation of lawns, gardens, flowers and ornamental plants by means of a hand-held hose

Nonessential uses are:

• Irrigation of lawns via sprinklers or automatic irrigation systems

• Washing of vehicles, except in a commercial car wash or as necessary for operator safety

• Washing of exterior building surfaces, parking lots, driveways or sidewalks, except as necessary to apply surface treatments such as paint, preservatives, stucco, pavement, or concrete