Mandatory water conservation measures are being implemented by the Riverhead Water District due to extraordinarily high demand this summer — even ahead of the traditional peak of the season.

The district pumped 460 million gallons of water during the month of June, more than 70% higher than last June’s monthly total of 270 million gallons, Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini said. On peak days during June, the district pumped more than 21 million gallons, stressing the district’s water supply and infrastructure beyond capacity, he said.

Mancini said the surge in water consumption during the summer months is believed to be mostly a result of irrigation systems. In the winter months, the district pumps 90 million gallons per month, Mancini said.

Last month the district got hit especially hard. The area saw little rainfall locally — less than an inch, Mancini said. In addition to the dry weather, a COVID-related population increase, as weekenders and summer residents flocked to vacation homes earlier than usual, and people spending a lot more time at home combined to cause an unusual spike in demand.

Conservation measures are essential because in the peak of the season — July and August — “75% of our wells never shut off for two months straight,” the superintendent said.

The board is expected to act Tuesday on a resolution that will impose an odd/even restriction on water consumption for lawn irrigation, car washing and filling pools. Water district customers whose addresses end in an even number can irrigate their properties on even-numbered days; those whose addresses end in odd numbers can do so on odd-numbered days.

No watering will be permitted between the hours of 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. or between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. every day.

The restrictions, which will take effect immediately, apply to both residential and commercial properties served by the Riverhead Water District.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who brought the resolution forward, is also proposing a town code change to require water conservation in landscaping.

The bill requires applications for new residential and commercial construction and additions to existing structures of at 25% or more to be accompanied by landscape designs showing at least 15% of the landscaped area of a site utilizing drought-tolerant or low-water plants.

It also requires low-volume irrigation systems in some applications, smart irrigation controllers and rain sensors.

“We are in a critical stage where we have to do mandatory conservation in order to keep our wells going,” Giglio said.

Councilman Frank Beyrodt, who operates a sod farm business, said homeowners should not stress about their lawns getting brown in places.

“When it gets brown, it’s going dormant,” Beyrodt said. “It will come back,” he said, adding “Green or brown grass shouldn’t be as important as having an adequate water supply in the community.”

Correction: This article has been amended to correct an error in the gallonage pumped during winter months. It stated the district pumps 90 million gallons per day during the winter. It should have read per month. Thank you to the readers who alerted us to this mistake.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.