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Officials in Suffolk County are urging residents to practice “smart lawn watering” to conserve water during summer months.

Riverhead residents are urged to limit their water usage every week, according to Riverhead Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini. He said the water district has been pumping 15 to 18 million gallons per day and are on track to break 20 million gallons per day this summer.

Long Island gets its drinking water from its underground sole-source aquifer. The aquifer’s supply is recharged by precipitation; however, large amounts of water withdrawn from the aquifer can lead to contamination.

Long Island is also under a drought watch, according to the Department of Environment Conservation, which is the first stage of drought declared by the state. If conditions worsen, the DEC can implement more drastic measures and tighten restrictions on water use. 

According to Mancini, 70% of water used during the summer is for irrigation systems. The water district has collaborated with Peconic Green Growth and the Long Island Community Foundation on a pamphlet to inform residents about water conservation efforts. (Read the pamphlet below.) A highlight of the pamphlet is urging residents to water their lawns only once or twice a week, Mancini said, as that is all that’s needed to maintain a regular lawn.

Mancini also said the water district has sent letters to their largest users asking them to implement measures to conserve water.

Residents can also help the district conserve water by irrigating during the peak hours from 5 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. The district also asks that residents with an even house number water lawns on even-numbered days of the month and odd-numbered houses water lawns on odd-numbered days. Technically, this restriction is mandatory between Memorial Day and Labor Day (Resolution 2020-338), although it is not enforced.

Another way to practice efficient watering is by purchasing a smart sprinkler controller, Mancini said. The controllers connect your sprinkler system to the internet and adjust the frequency of watering based on weather conditions.  

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski is also encouraging residents to water their lawns efficiently. In collaboration with the Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection, volunteers will be stationed at Suffolk and Nassau beaches, parks and events through the summer offering information about water conservation, according to a press release. People who take a pledge to conserve water will receive a free beach towel, tee shirt or frisbee and will be entered to win a smart sprinkler controller.

“We as a community must take every opportunity to recharge our aquifer,” Krupski said. “Although we had very heavy rains this month, this will not always be the case. Weather patterns are changing, and less frequent but more intense precipitation events are predicted,” he said. “Preserving land and improving stormwater infrastructure will certainly help recharge our aquifer, so water is recharged, rather than running off into our bays, creeks and estuaries, carrying with it bacteria and pollution.”

Anybody in Riverhead with questions regarding water usage is welcome to call the Riverhead Water District at (631) 727-3205. water-conservation

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]