Is Hudson Running out of Water?

December 11, 2015



by Doug Robinson

The Board of Selectmen for the Town of Hudson is actively looking for more wells to supply water to the residents of Hudson.

During the Dec. 1 Board of Selectmen Workshop, Town Engineer Elvis Dhima told the selectmen that the water levels in Hudson’s three wells are significantly lower than anticipated due to the lack of rain during the past few years.

Dhima commented that the level of water in one of Hudson’s three wells has dropped from 14 feet below the surface to 22 feet below the surface.  “This is due to the lack of rain,” commented Dhima.  “In the past three years, we have received 14 inches less rain than the historical average.  Just look at the pond on Derry Road, Robinson Pond, or Ottarnic Pond.  One can easily see that they water levels are significantly lower.”

But for the Hudson residents, other than the alternating days of the summer water ban, Hudson residents have not really had to think about a possible water shortage.

Just consider what is happening now on the West Coast.  The Huffington Post reported that, “San Francisco, Feb. 26 (Reuters) – Nearly all California voters believe the state’s water shortage is a serious problem.”

Environment 360 reports, “All this (California water shortage) being said, it is also clear that this drought is exceptional and should be seen as an historical turning point.  Indeed, California is moving into new – and worrisome – territory for three reasons:  rising heat, which causes increased evaporation; the continuing depletion of groundwater supplies; and growing water shortages on the Colorado River, the main external source of water for Southern California.”

So, has the water drought traveled to the other side of the United States and reached Hudson?

The Town of Hudson purchased the local water supply from Consumers NH Water Company in 1998.  Hudson purchased all the “water in Hudson and all the assets and the infrastructure, including three water wells which are located in Litchfield,” stated Hudson Town Administrator Steve Malizia.  “While consumers also operated in Plaistow, Sandown, Somersworth and other communities, we were not interested in those towns.”

At that time, the Town of Hudson had 4,700 water users.  Today, the town has 6,200 water users.  Over the past 18 years, Hudson has seen explosive growth in senior housing throughout the town as well as the development of the economic zones to attract more businesses to Hudson.

Hudson purchased the water system because Hudson residents were financing the expansion of Consumers Water into other communities.  Hudson water users were seeing their water bills continually rise with no stop in sight.

Since the purchase of the water company, which was approved by the voters in 1998, Hudson residents have not seen a rate hike or increase in their water bill.

The cost of the purchase was $27.5 million and the town secured a bond to pay for the water company.  The town has re-bonded the purchase three times in an effort to lower interest charges and has 12 years to go to pay off the bond in full.

Each year, the revenue to the town of Hudson from the ownership of the water company is around $3.6 million dollars.

The operational and maintenance expense to facilitate the effective operations of the system is $1.2 million, and the debt expense to pay off the bond is $1.6 million per year.  Of this number, approximately $1.065 million is paid to the principal of the bond and $540,081 is being paid for the interest to the bond.

The three wells that supply the water to Hudson are named Dame, Ducharme, and Weinstein.  All three wells, which are located in Litchfield, are known as aquifers, or pools of water under the ground.  The aquifers are filled by rainfall or water runoff from a higher location which seeps into the soil.

Recently, a second Weinstein well was drilled because the original well was beginning to show excessive wear and tear.  The decision was made to re-drill a new well next to the original Weinstein as this would be the less expensive route to go.  Currently, this new well is being tested and will apply to the state in the spring for pumping certification for gallons per day allowed.

According to Malizia, the type of water supply (aquifer) used by Hudson is the most economical to produce clean and treated water.  The mix of sand and soil acts as a natural filter to begin the cleaning process for use as drinking water.

If the need arose and should Hudson use water from the Merrimack River, a special facility would have to be built to properly treat the water.  The Board of Selectmen learned at the workshop that it would cost the Town of Hudson $15 million to build a facility that would pump 1 million gallons of water per minute and up to $22 million to build a facility that would pump 2 million gallons of water per day.

Currently, according to Dhima, the three wells are producing “approximately 1.55 million gallons of water per day.  The town of Hudson presently uses approximately 1.2 million gallons per day” now.

The current water supply “used by Hudson residents is used by only about half of the residents of Hudson” stated Malizia.  “If you look at Hudson and run an imaginary line from the north to the south, those who live closer to the Merrimack River have town water.  Those to the right, or further east, will have a well.  This is due to the majority of the homes in Hudson being aligned near to the Merrimack River when Hudson was first established.  As the town spread, the homes had to connect to the pipes that were first set in the ground for water.”

As more and more businesses locate on the north side of Hudson along Route 102, they too will be connecting to the water line that now runs along Route 102 up to Robinson Road.  As hard as it is to believe, until a few years ago, the Hudson water supply stopped at Page Road (White Hen Pantry).  The water was only expanded when St. Joseph Hospital was constructed, at a cost to the hospital.

These “connections” can cost the developer up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how far and how hard it is to excavate for the connection.  Recently, the planning board heard input from town engineer Dhima and engineering consulting firm Weston and Sampson regarding which water line would be best for the proposed Dunkin’ Donuts to connect as the contractor is building a three-unit building just off of the Robinson Road and Route 102 intersection.

Today, other businesses who have located on the north end town, off of Route 102, such as Irving Gas, Southern NH Medical, and St. Joseph Hospital, have also had to “connect” to the water line at their own expense.

Selectman Richard Maddox stated, “It is prudent, and it is an investment in our future to look for more water.  If we are going to continue to grow our town, we need to be able to supply water.  While we have a contract with Pennichuck to help us with supply should the need arise (as in the summer months), that is extremely costly.  We need to be looking now for more water.”

Weston and Sampson has been hired by the Town of Hudson to begin the process of providing a scope of work and creating a proposal list of potential sites for the development or drilling for water in Hudson.  This proposal and scope will concern both the distribution, supply, repairs, and maintenance of the water system.

The next story in this series will discuss the present condition of our investment and how it is being maintained.