Residential Water Use in Massachusetts Exceeds State Guidelines

There is nothing more annoying than seeing automated sprinklers watering sidewalks or spraying on lawns during rain. Such excess water use is common in affluent communities. Almost 100 Massachusetts communities are exceeding state guidelines for water usage. The state advises residential water consumption be limited to 65 gallons a day per person.

Like much of the US, Massachusetts has suffered periods of drought, although nothing like the West, and rivers and streams are being drawn down to supply residents with water. Residents are trying to avoid water restrictions by digging private wells, yet these wells also drain the same water table as municipally supplied water. Freshwater fish are suffering.

The Boston Globe reports: “With lawn watering season just getting underway, the state says there are 160 rivers and streams in the state that already suffer from low flows or water levels. Some, like parts of the Jones River in Kingston, run bone dry some summers.”

And a new state Department of Fish & Game report shows river fish are disappearing from many Massachusetts waterways – including the upper Charles and Blackstone rivers – in part because too much water is being taken from them. Brook trout, a local favorite, have all but disappeared from the parched upper Ipswich River. The stock of native bait fish such as common shiners have plummeted in the Blackstone.

Overwatering is to blame for much of the excess demand, local officials say.

The average daily usage of water in many Massachusetts communities ranges from 75 to 167 gallons per individual (not household) per day. The state has one of the strictest residential water use standards in the country, but it won’t be fully implemented until 2017.

The 65 gallon limit is equivalent to 1,040 glasses of water, but the Massachusetts Water Works Association claims the restrictions are too severe citing the national average is about 100 gallons per day per person. The average American consumes 69 gallons a day for indoor use and 32 gallons for outdoor use of water.

The Boston Globe describes typical water usage: “But it is not that hard, water advocates say, to reduce indoor usage to 40 gallons or even lower, in part by being aware of how much water you are using. For example, a full bath tub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. The average washing machine uses about 41 gallons of water per load.”

Residents of Bolinas, California have proven you can live off of much less water than the average American. This winter when the community’s reservoirs were drying up, households were restricted to 150 gallons a day, that’s about 38 gallons per person and almost half of what Massachusetts has set as the state guideline.

Whether you live in a drought region or not, we should all be concerned about water consumption. Aquatic life needs ample water supply, and water tables around the world are dropping rapidly. Conservation is key.

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Author: Jennifer Lance

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