Glynis Berry of Peconic Green Growth presented Riverhead Central School District officials with donated irrigation equipment yesterday at Riverhead High School.

New irrigation sensors will be installed at Riverhead High School, Riverhead Middle School and Pulaski Street School thanks to a gift from Peconic Green Growth, a Riverhead-based environmental organization.

Peconic Green Growth has donated $5,000 worth of irrigation equipment to the Riverhead Central School District for use at the district’s main campus, where the irrigation of athletic fields can consume more than 5 million gallons of water during the months of July through September.

The new irrigation sensors and controls will allow the district to avoid overwatering through links to weather stations and use of onsite moisture sensors, Peconic Green Growth exectuive director Glynis Berry said. The goal is to reduce the district’s overall water use, she said.

Funds to purchase the equipment came from a grant from the Long Island Community foundation.

The organization presented the equipment to district officials yesterday afternoon at Riverhead High School.

“We thank Peconic Green Growth for this donation, which will help the district conserve water and reduce costs,” Acting Superintendent Christine Tona said.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent, town board liaison to the Riverhead Environmental Advisory Committee has fostered a partnership between Peconic Green Growth and the Riverhead Water District, Berry said.

“It is vital that we all work together to conserve this precious resource,” Kent said yesterday at the high school.

The water district has established a water conservation program that takes aim at outdoor water use, which accounts for 50% to 70% of all domestic water consumption. Daily use of water by Riverhead homes averages 370 gallons per day — above the national average of 240 gallons per day. That number more than doubles in summertime and in the summer of 2020 surged to 956 gallons per day — per home — according to Riverhead Water District records.

Riverhead Water District is distributing flyers advising residents of the water use restrictions in place to help reduce peak demand, such as odd/even watering days. Irrigation should take place between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. and should be avoided during peak demand times of early morning and early evening, when household use for bathing, showering and other daily indoor activities increases.

“We’re working to get the word out to the community that with some simple measures, we can conserve water,” Riverhead Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini said.

Municipal water districts, such as Riverhead’s, must invest tens of millions of dollars in expensive infrastructure to be able to supply water during the peak demand period, when irrigation systems water lawns at homes and businesses throughout the district.

Water consumption at present rates is impacting the Long Island’s sole-source aquifer, Berry said.

“The aquifer hasn’t recovered from the 2016 drought,” she said, and cannot sustain pumping at current rates.

“When the aquifer shrinks from heavy pumping, saltwater from surrounding bodies of water moves into the vacuum and contaminates freshwater wells,” Berry said. “This is happening with more frequency across the North Fork.”

The combined use of nitrogen-based lawn fertilizers and overwatering also pollutes our groundwater and surface waters, Berry said.

Peconic Green Growth has some irrigation system moisture sensors available at no cost and is willing to work with any group trying to reduce water use, both indoors and out, Berry said. To request an application for a donation of this equipment, write to [email protected] For further information, contact Berry at 631-680-9656.

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