Congratulations to the Town of Ipswich for its overwhelming support at the May 10th Town Meeting for improved conservation policies in a revised water use bylaw. Supported by the Board of Water Commissioners, the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen, the revised bylaw includes conservation measures on private wells during droughts. Because all water is interconnected underground, reducing the impact of nonessential outdoor water use from private wells during droughts is just as important as for the public water supply.
Ipswich joins only five other towns in the Commonwealth who have incorporated language into their water use restriction bylaws holding private well users to the same water conservation requirements as public water users. These towns include Ipswich Watershed neighbors Hamilton, Wenham and Topsfield, as well as Falmouth and Wrentham.
Ipswich River Watershed staff and advocates have been helping communities address these issues. Due to a recent proliferation of new wells dug for irrigation purposes, several other neighboring towns have been considering adopting similar private well bylaws, including Rowley and Middleton. Additionally, we have advocated for a new bill filed on Beacon Hill which authorizes the state to regulate all private wells during drought. The bill is gaining significant support in the legislature and could become law. The Town of Ipswich will be in a much better position to comply with this new law should it pass.
As a recent report on “Private Irrigation Well Restrictions in Massachusetts” authored by the Massachusetts Rivers Alliance concludes, “The hydrologic reality is that private well water withdrawals deplete our shared groundwater reserves…. To sustain summertime water levels in wetlands, rivers and streams and protect local drinking water supplies, it is essential to establish common sense standards for all outdoor watering.”
As the region approaches the summer season, when water demand can increase by more than 75% * and concern for another drought is high, all Ipswich residents will be doing their part to conserve water resources, which will benefit the entire Ipswich Watershed.