For the first time in nearly 15 years, the Suez water company along with South Kingstown and Narragansett officials have issued an urgent and immediate order that bans outdoor water uses for homeowners.
“We have high demand – more than usual and in part from more people here due to COVID as well as having the current stretch of hot weather,” said Christopher Jacobs, manager of the Suez, which provides water to those towns.
The company has about 20,000 customers. Although no emergency exists right now, he added, the complete ban is a pro-active measure to avoid one. The restrictions do not affect water consumers in the independent Kingston Water District, which does not have any water bans in place.
Suez customers in the rest of South Kingstown and all of Narragansett combined use about 2.5 million gallons of water during the off-summer season. That number doubles and can go beyond five million gallons during routine summer months when the population of the two towns swells.
In the last few days, Jacobs said, demand has been starting to increase even more – upwards over five million gallons – taxing the system and triggering the need for further action. Usually slight curbs – including varying days for watering lawns and other uses – works.
What is different now are forecasts for continuing hot weather that signals “we’re kind of sliding into a drought situation,” he said, along with COVID-19 effects putting many local people at home this summer rather than vacationing elsewhere and more summer residents establishing a longer stay in the area.
“This year has been unmatched. A lot of factors have created the perfect storm,” he said.
In June the utility company and two towns imposed an outdoor water restriction for the weekends. Weekday outdoor water use alternated odd and even days.
Officials say customers with odd number street address could water only on odd number weekdays, and customers with even number street addresses may water on even days. Now any watering is banned.
Water for the system is drawn from an underground aquifer and put into three large tanks holding a combined 2.5 million gallons of water. The ban will help keep these tanks filled and the aquifer levels stable until more rain and less demand replenishes water use to average levels, he explained.
In North Kingstown, according to that town’s website, certain restrictions also apply, but not a full ban.
Lawn and landscape irrigation of lawns as well as landscaping for properties using sprinkler systems is restricted from July 1 through September 1 to twice per week.
The town has established the following schedule:
Irrigation District 1: Sprinkler use allowed on Monday and Thursday only
Includes all North Kingstown water customers located to the east of Route 1 / Post Road / Tower Hill Road.
Irrigation District 2: Sprinkler use allowed on Tuesday and Friday only
Includes all North Kingstown water customers located to the west of Route 1 / Post Road / Tower Hill Road.
No sprinkler operation will be permitted in any district between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. or on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday
Hand watering of flowers and / or vegetable gardens is permitted at any time.
According to the town website, “We do not have adequate pumping capacity to consistently meet the highest water demands we have experienced. We have at times exceeded pumping capacity.”
“Our ability to provide municipal water and fire service is dependent on publicly promoting effective policies to reduce peak demand and other wasteful uses of our potable water supply,” it says.