Falmouth Enforces Irrigation Water Ban

FALMOUTH – A mandatory water ban has been put in effect by the Falmouth select board as the region continues to struggle with drought conditions.

As of Monday, August 15 all irrigation of outdoor areas is prohibited. Watering by hand is permitted.

Falmouth’s Water Superintendent Cathal O’Brien said at the August 8 meeting of the select board that the ban on automatic and mechanical sprinklers is a “very serious step.”

Board member Douglas Brown asked O’Brien about enforcement of the ban.

Brown cited instances when he has seen residents with sprinklers on in the middle of the afternoon, ignoring water restrictions.

“When appropriate by the public notice, we’re going to be out daily and enforcing the bylaw to the full extent to protect the residents that comply,” O’Brien said.

An update on the town’s website notes that repeated violations of the ban can result in a water shut off.

The ban comes as Massachusetts experiences hot and dry weather. The state recently classified Barnstable County as experiencing significant drought conditions.

“We’re pumping out at maximum demand. On Saturday I had to call Peter (Johnson-Staub, Town Manager) at home and let him know we’re really struggling to meet peak demand,” O’Brien said.

He added that having to operate in peak demand mode means the town’s plant relies on mechanical systems for its 24 hours cycles.

O’Brien said the practice is not sustainable and a drop in pressure could lead to potential fire flow and water quality problems.

Select board Vice Chair Onjalé Scott Price asked O’Brien if the board should be encouraging residents to use less water inside.

“It’s the irrigation that gets us,” O’Brien answered. “We can handle the sanitary, we saw the surge as the spring came through, we’re able to handle that.”

He continued, “It’s the nature of sprinklers as they all turn on at once. It causes a massive issue for our supply.”

O’Brien said the increased demand has led to issues with turbidity, the clarity of water.

The town had similar problems in 2020. The superintendent stated his department has been able to manage that situation but it requires frequent testing to keep the water safe.

The board voted unanimously to pass the ban. O’Brien said the measure is temporary until the demand for water subsides to the point where the system is not vulnerable.

The ban also states that residents with well irrigation should post a visible sign to avoid getting erroneously reported.

The superintendent previously went before the board at their July 25 meeting to urge residents to adhere to the odd-even ban.

Harwich also put a similar ban in effect on August 1

By Brian Engles, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

About Brian Engles

Brian Engles is a longtime local of the Cape. He studied Film & TV at Boston University and in addition to his role at Cape Cod Broadcasting Media, he also works as a music instructor and records original songs.

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