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A Drop in the Bucket: The Importance of Doing Our Part During the Water Ban

Like many students this semester, I moved into my dorm last month to find a small flyer bearing the hashtag “#UMassSavesH2O” taped to the door of my suite. In addition to providing instructions for ways to limit water usage, this little slip of paper surprised me with the news that the Town of Amherst is currently under a mandatory water ban.

Backtracking a bit, Amherst was placed under a voluntary water ban over the summer, which was implemented on July 25 by Peter Hechenbleikner, the Temporary Town Manager. Less than a month later, Interim Town Manager David Ziomek received authorization from the Amherst Select Board to upgrade the status of the ban: on Aug. 19, it officially became mandatory.

All of this has been a response to abnormally low precipitation levels in the Connecticut River Region over the course of the past five months. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs has this area under a formal Drought Watch, due to concerns about the recent plight of our groundwater and rainfall.

As Amherst residents, we get our water from a combination of two small Pelham reservoirs—the Atkins Reservoir and wells in Lawrence Swamp. It is crucial that they remain intact, because it would be too expensive to start shipping in water on trucks, and we don’t have the infrastructure to receive water from reservoirs in other communities. Even if we could realistically manage that, those communities are still dealing with the drought as well.

In fact, the majority of Massachusetts is currently grappling with this water shortage. According to The Boston Globe, approximately 38 percent of the state is experiencing a “severe drought,” 8 percent is classified under a “moderate drought,” and less than 2 percent of the state is classified as “free of drought conditions.” 

This is an incredibly important issue; at this point, conservation is key. On average, this town uses roughly 3.3 – 3.5 million gallons on a daily basis, and we need to minimize that consumption quantity as much as possible until the groundwater has a chance to replenish itself. The town has been taking conservation measures such as checking for pipe leaks at the Water Treatment Plant, refraining from watering town parks, and using water from the War Memorial and Mill River pools to support the flower baskets downtown.

With that said, the ban will only be effective if we all participate in the conservation effort. While the ban explicitly prevents watering lawns, filling pools, watering annual/perennial plants or washing vehicles at non-commercial facilities, there are other ways we can be engaged and help save this massively important resource. We can shorten our showers. We can refrain from leaving the water running while we brush our teeth. We can make sure to run our washing machines with full loads every time, and use the shortest cycle. We can help. Each and every action we take to conserve our water is a drop in the bucket; it may seem insignificant at first, but it all adds up to a far greater impact.

For more information, check out Amherst’s website.

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Arianna Lewis

U Mass Amherst

University of Massachusetts '17 | Legal Studies major | Latin minor Professional treehugger in training, color-coding aficionado, wanderlust incarnate
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