Mandatory Outdoor Water Ban Goes into Effect in Windham

October 7, 2016



by Barbara O’Brien

Windham Selectmen have voted unanimously to enact a mandatory outdoor water ban, effective Wednesday, Oct. 12; five days after it was publically published.  The mandatory ban on watering lawns replaces the voluntary ban selectmen put into place the previous week.

Selectmen’s Chairman Joel Desilets spoke about southern New Hampshire being in the midst of the worst drought in the last century.  “A lot of people are experiencing water problems,” Desilets said, noting that “extreme” drought conditions exist in Rockingham County and are moving northward.  Town Administrator David Sullivan said he was aware of at least three residents who have no water in their wells at all; a situation that had already existed for the past couple of weeks.

Sullivan explained that selectmen have the authority under state regulations to restrict outdoor water use, either by a total ban or by limiting the hours of use.  Following their discussion on Oct. 3, selectmen decided to go with a Level 3 water ban, which means no watering of lawns at all.  As of early October, the amount of precipitation in southern New Hampshire was about 16 inches below normal, thus far this year.

Fire Chief Tom McPherson, who had participated in a statewide webinar on the drought conditions earlier in September, reported that he had not seen static water sources in this area at such a low point in many years.  In the event of an emergency, however, McPherson said the fire department could tap into the Pennichuck system.  McPherson also said that state officials are asking that fire departments not make water deliveries to residents due to the possibility of contaminating wells.

Based on state regulations, once the ban is officially in effect, the first violation will result in a verbal warning, the second will elicit a $200 fine and a third infraction will result in a $1,000 fine.  The water ban will be enforced by the local police department.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger said he was totally in favor of enacting an outdoor water ban, but was concerned about residents receiving ample warning; of them not being aware of the water ban.

Vice-Chairman Ross McLeod also said he was concerned about there being sufficient notice to residents.  McLeod said he would like to see the ban not go into effect until a full week after a notice had been published.  McLeod, noting the lateness of the growing season, also commented that many residents who have irrigation systems have already drained their systems or are in the process of doing so.

Selectman Jennifer Simmons also expressed concern about giving the public sufficient notice of the water ban.  Simmons also expressed sympathy for those whose wells have been impacted by the drought.  “I know so many people with water issues,” Simmons said.  “Everywhere I go, there’s talk about water, water, water.”

Hohenberger said he has sympathy for those who have spent lots of time and money keeping their lawns groomed this past summer and face potential damage to those lawns once watering is prohibited.  Hohenberger noted that he hadn’t watered his own lawn this past summer.  “My lawn is already dead,” he commented.  Hohenberger stated that he wasn’t sure a voluntary ban would have actually accomplished anything.

Voting to enact the mandatory outdoor watering ban were Joel Desilets, Ross McLeod, Jennifer Simmons, Bruce Breton and Roger Hohenberger.

Additional suggestions for conserving water are available on the town’s website.  Residents are encouraged to conserve water indoors, as well as outdoors, whenever possible.