In a brief Special Meeting of the Londonderry Town Council, the current drought conditions were addressed by the reading of an “Ordinance Relative to a Restriction on Outside Water Use.”
At the Tuesday, Sept. 20 meeting, Town Manager Kevin Smith read the proposed ordinance, which states that the Town of Londonderry had received word from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) that “drought conditions in the State of New Hampshire are sufficiently severe that NHDES is requesting that municipalities use their statutory authority under RSA 41:11-d to enact town-wide lawn watering bans for both private and public wells.”
Farrell said the Special Meeting had been called to constitute the first reading of the ordinance, which will be posted for seven days and a public hearing held for input and comment on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m., when the Council would be asked to adopt it. That meeting took place after Londonderry Times press deadline.
Smith said that in his conversation with NHDES, he was told they see no relief from the drought conditions in the foreseeable future and that the concern is that wells that are now low might run dry in the winter, causing even greater problems.
The ordinance states Londonderry is suffering from “severe” or “extreme” drought conditions and under the RSA (statute) authority, the town “through its governing body can establish restrictions on the use of water from private wells or public water systems for residential outdoor lawn watering.” The ordinance points out that portions of Londonderry are already under some restrictions put in place by public water supply companies.
The ordinance states, “The Town of Londonderry ordains by the Londonderry Town Council that in response to the severe and extreme drought conditions and the impacts therefrom facing residents of Londonderry, effective Sept. 27 a mandatory restriction on the watering of all residential lawns is imposed…”
Enforcement of the ordinance is in the hands of the Londonderry Police Department, and the failure to comply will result in a warning for the first violation; a $250 fine for the second offense; and a $500 fine for each subsequent violation.
The ordinance speaks to non-residential property owners, stating “it is encouraged that all non-residential property owners in Londonderry voluntarily abide by the same restriction.”
Council Chair John Farrell, after the issue of commercial buildings was raised by Town Councilor Jim Butler, asked Smith to look into expanding or amending the proposed ordinance to include restricting commercial properties’ use of water for lawn watering, after checking with the Town Attorney.
He said he was not suggesting restricting commercial enterprises that use water in their business, but was only seeking to add commercial building lawn watering to the ordinance.
At this point in time, Smith said the Londonderry School District is exempted from the ordinance restriction.
However, contacted Sept. 22, School District Business Director Peter Curro said the School District has been ahead of the curve regarding water conservation and the upcoming Town ordinance to restrict lawn watering, as it cut back during the summer by limiting field watering to the game field only. As of now the School District has cut back watering the game field by 50 percent and has reduced practices to preserve that field.
He reminded residents that the School District’s central campus of the high school and middle school get their water from two irrigation ponds and thus do not use private or dug wells. The other schools have little or no areas that require watering, he added.
Farrell said Smith should check with Town Counsel as to whether the ordinance as read can be adjusted or whether a new ordinance would be needed.
Conservation Commission Chair Marge Badois raised the issue of landscape companies drawing water from water holes and ponds such as Kendall Pond to use in hydro seeding. She told Farrell she has received information from several people and has photographs showing this has been taking place.
Farrell directed Smith to contact the Londonderry Police Department to look into this activity and stop it.