Water supply looking better after wet fall

Rains replenished reservoirs in recent months, improving regional water supplies, although an extended dry spell and high water use next summer could pose problems.

“We are off to a very good start for fall and winter. Reservoir levels are well above the 20-year average because of a wet September and October,” said Peter Fazekas, director of public relations for Aquarion Water Company, the utility that serves much of Ridgefield.

“Water usage drops in the fall and winter, so we will be in a good position for next spring,” Fazekas told The Press in a Nov. 12 email. “However, the big question is always what will next summer bring when water demands are always at their highest?”

Aquarion has more than 3,000 water customers in Ridgefield, but many Ridgefield homes are served by their own wells. The rainfall that has benefited the company’s reservoirs lately should also have been good for homeowners’ wells.

Aquarion’s Greater Bridgeport System, which serves Ridgefield, was at 98.1% of capacity at last measurement on Nov. 13.

The 20-year average shows that reservoir system is typically slightly above 80% of capacity — about 83% — at this time of year.

Rainfall, measured at Stamford, totaled 14.0 inches for September and October — 5.3 inches above the 20-year average of 8.7 inches for those months, according to Aquarion.

For the past three months, 18.9 inches were measured in Stamford, compared to a 20-year average of 12.5 inches. That 2018 rainfall is 6.4 inches above the 20-year average for August, September and October.

Over the past year, there were 55.6 inches of rainfall — from Oct. 31, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2018 — compared to a 20-year average of 49.1 inches. That’s a difference of 6.5 inches comparing the last year to the 20-year average for that period.

Over the summer, reservoirs were fairly typical.

“For the most part, reservoir levels were at the 20-year average this summer,” Fazekas said.

Most of Aquarion’s 3,300 water customers in town are on the main Ridgefield system — serving the village and central Ridgefield.

The Ridgefield main system is hooked into Aquarion’s southwest regional pipeline, which draws from a system of three linked reservoirs, the Hemlocks Reservoir in Fairfield, Aspetuck Reservoir in Easton and Saugatuck Reservoir in Weston and Redding — and the main Ridgefield System also draws from the Canal Street and Coleytown wells in Westport.

That’s part of the “Greater Bridgeport System,” which has five other reservoirs — Easton Lake in Easton, Trap Falls, Far Mill and Means Brook, all in Shelton. The system has a storage capacity of close to 19.5 billion gallons of water. It once served the high water demand of Bridgeport’s heyday as a manufacturing center.

This Bridgeport system today shares water with down-county towns through the Southwest Regional pipeline — and water is being pumped regularly into the Ridgefield, Darien, New Canaan and Stamford distribution systems. The Ridgefield main water system also draws water from local wells: the Oscaleta, North Street and Beechwood well fields in Ridgefield — sources acquired decades back as part of the former Ridgefield Water Supply Company.

Over the years, Aquarion has also acquired several smaller neighborhood water systems in Ridgefield, The systems, often put in by housing developers, include the Ridgefield Knolls, Craigmoor, Scodon and Turner Hill neighborhoods.

According to Fazekas, the Ridgefield Knolls water system has six wells, known as the Topstone wells. The Scodon system is served by four wells in Miry Brook aquifer. The Craigmoor has a well from the Titicus River aquifer. And Turner Hill, in northernmost Ridgefield, gets its water from the city of Danbury’s municipal water system.

Numerous other towns are connected to the Bridgeport system through the Southwest Regional pipeline, and several of them are subject to seasonal outdoor water use restrictions in spring and summer. Aquarion has seasonal water restrictions on for Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Stamford, Westport and Newtown, limiting use of irrigation systems and hose sprinklers to twice a week. In some towns, the seasonal restrictions go back to May 2017.

“Regarding the twice-weekly irrigation restrictions, they are permanent and run from the beginning of April to the end of October,” Fazekas said. “We plan to continue adding towns to the twice-weekly restrictions over the next several years.”