Londonderry Town Councilors approved an ordinance restricting outside water use on Monday night.
The first reading of the ordinance took place at a Special Town Council meeting Sept. 20, with a public hearing following Sept. 27 (see story page 3). At that meeting residents and councilors discussed the ordinance that was developed after Town Manager Kevin Smith was advised by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) that the agency was requesting municipalities use their statutory authority under RSA 41:11-d to enact a ban for residents using either public or private wells.
Smith said DES explained that they see no relief from the drought conditions in the foreseeable future and that the concern is that wells might run dry in the winter, causing even greater problems.
As of Sept. 1, the DES classified Londonderry as being under “severe” or “extreme” drought conditions.
The restriction would apply to use of water from public or private wells for residential outdoor lawn watering.
Monday night, Town Council Chair John Farrell made it clear that the ordinance is in response to the state’s declaration of Londonderry as a municipality experiencing “extreme drought conditions.”
Effective immediately will be a mandatory restriction on the watering of all residential lawns, with enforcement by the Londonderry Police Department. Failure to comply will draw first a warning; a second violation will result in a $250 fine, and the third and all subsequent violations will result in $500 fines.
Farrell said letters would be sent to commercial enterprises and businesses asking them to voluntarily comply with the water restriction on outside watering.
Two residents declared their support for the ban, and Londonderry School District Business Administrator Peter Curro told the Town Council that the school district, while exempt from the ordinance, has been ahead of the curve and began taking steps in July to stop watering its practice fields and reducing game fields watering by 50 percent (see story page 1). He pointed out that the water used comes from the school district’s irrigation ponds, which collect drainage from school property.
The council refused to consider requests for exceptions, saying the ordinance would be weakened and it would be a burden on the Town Manager to have to address matters on a case-by-case requests.
It was suggested that language be added stating that the suspension may be lifted by the Town Manager and Council when conditions so warrant. However, it was determined that the ordinance, once enacted, is permanent, and the trigger for lifting the ban would be the declaration from the State that Londonderry is no longer in an extreme drought condition.
Farrell and the council agreed to take a look at the ordinance and the situation in May. However, the council rejected making any amendments to the ordinance as presented.
Before the council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance as presented, Smith said that Town Attorney Michael Ramsdell had determined that the ordinance could not be adjusted or amended to address commercial companies withdrawing water from local ponds and water sources for hydroseeding and landscaping purposes. He said another ordinance would have to be developed to deal with that issue.