Weather causes water line breaks; Aquarion watches supply
Three water line breaks in December disrupted service to Aquarion customers in Ridgefield, with a total of 68 customers losing water, according to the utility company. Others have experienced pressure fluctuations as a result of water losses stemming from the pipe breaks.
It’s been happening because of the weather, according to Aquarion spokesman Peter Fazekas.
“We’ve had swings of cold and warm, which is going to cause ground movement, which is the perfect storm for a water main break — that’s when you get water main breaks,” he said.
Aquarion also continues to be concerned about long-range water supply issues.
Although water levels in its reservoirs are somewhat better than they were a year ago — following a summer of quite severe drought in 2016 — concerns remain about long-term water supply and a continuing problem of low rainfall and snowfall, well below the area’s 20-year averages.
Fazekas offered details on the three December water line breaks:
- On Prospect Street on Dec. 18, a line break caused eight customers to be without water much of the morning, from about 7 a.m. to 11:54 a.m., when service was restored.
- A line break Dec. 8 on Peaceable Street left 20 customers without water most of the day, from 6:45 a.m. to restoration at 5:30 p.m.
- On Dec. 5, 40 customers were affected by a water line break on Bailey Avenue.
The line breaks aren’t related to the company’s two new water tanks, which went into service about a year ago, Fazekas said. The new tanks haven’t increased pressure on the water lines, he said.
“Tanks went online in 2016, and they are at the same elevation as the old tank, so same pressure,” Fazekas said.
The two new tanks do store a larger volume of water, and that is helpful when there’s a water main break, he said.
“One advantage of the two new tanks is there’s more storage capacity, so it has less of an impact on customers when there is a water main break, because there’s a greater supply available,” Fazekas said.
With the two new tanks storing a larger volume of water, losses from a line break are a smaller part of the whole and so the drawdown of the tank levels is less — which reduces the amount the elevation is lowered, meaning there’s less of a drop in pressure from any given line break.
“It’s the drawdown of the tanks which is going to cause lower pressure,” Fazekas said, “so with the increased capacity a break is going to have less of a low-pressure impact on customers.”
Aquarion’s overall outlook is that water supply will be an ongoing regional concern.
“We are continuing to ask customers to conserve water,” said Fazekas. “And check for leaks, especially in bathrooms — toilets, dripping faucets.”
The Greater Bridgeport System — which supplies the Ridgefield main system, serving 7,500 of the 8,650 residents who get Aquarion water — draws mostly from Aquarion’s Hemlocks Reservoir in Fairfield, although it is also served by wells.
Aquarion has four other water systems in Ridgefield. Three are small systems with their own wells — separate from the main system that experienced the line breaks. They are Ridgefield Knolls, serving 670 people; Scodon, serving 220 people; and the Craigmoor system, serving 60 people. The fourth system, in the Turner Hill development, serves about 200 people with water from the Danbury city system.
There are about 26,000 people in Ridgefield, and the vast majority of them live in homes with private wells.
Aquarion’s Bridgeport system, supplying the company’s Ridgefield main system, had a reservoir level at 75.7% of capacity on Dec. 11, 2017. That’s below a 20-year average showing the reservoir about 85% full at this time of year. That average is based on the years 1995 to 2014.
The Dec. 11 level of just under 76% is an improvement over a year ago, when the Bridgeport system’s capacity was at about 65% in mid-December 2016.
The reservoir supplies approximately 58% of the water used in the Ridgefield main system. Other water used in town also comes from the Oscaleta, North Street and Beechwood well fields in Ridgefield, with some water also coming via the Bridgeport system from the Coleytown and Canal Street wells, both in Westport.
Fazekas said the company expects the system’s reservoir will be back to full, or nearly full, after the coming winter’s snows and then spring rains.
“Our modeling is still showing our reservoirs will fill for next year,” Fazekas said. “We generally get a lot precipitation over the winter months, a lot of snow.”
Aquarion continues to have water-use restrictions in place for four Fairfield County towns that are served by other reservoir systems — Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, and Darien.
“We’ll be adding Westport in 2018,” Fazekas said.
The restrictions in place limit lawn watering and lawn irrigation system use to twice weekly — affecting customers during the warmer months.
The lawn-watering limits have helped.
“It is definitely better than a year ago, and the twice weekly irrigation restriction definitely had a positive impact on where the water levels are,” Fazekas said.
Rainfall is down, though. Aquarion charts show that in the last year — from Nov. 30, 2016, to Nov. 30, 2017 — 45.2 inches of rain fell in Greenwich. The 10-year average for that period was 52.1 inches.
“It’s continuing on a downward trend,” Fazekas said. “We are in need of more precipitation.”