Wrentham approves water restriction bylaw that includes private wells
By Stephen Peterson, originally posted on November 15, 2016
WRENTHAM — It wasn’t smooth, but residents at Monday’s fall annual town meeting overwhelmingly passed a bylaw for water use that also affects private wells.
Several amendments were offered during lengthy discussion, with a few approved, but the concern of many in the audience who opposed the measure was that it would affect private well users, as well as town water customers.
The bylaw restricts nonessential outdoor water use if a “state of water supply emergency” is declared to ensure there is adequate supply of safe water for drinking and fire protection.
Board of health member George Smith said he spent $10,000 on each of his two wells, and unsuccessfully moved to strike private wells from the bylaw.
“Removing that would pretty much negate the entire bylaw,” Public Works Superintendent Michael Lavin said.
Not only was the bylaw deemed necessary with the ongoing drought, but the state is requiring communities to focus on aquifers that also are tapped by private wells, Lavin said.
The state could impose more stringent water requirements on the town if the bylaw wasn’t enacted, Lavin cautioned.
“I’m very concerned with our long-term economic growth and capacity to provide water,” Lavin said.
The bylaw is also based on a model bylaw from the state, he said.
Resident Don Jordan questioned the town’s authority over his well, and later tried to get the bylaw postponed.
Town Counsel George Hall said the state gives the town the right to regulate private wells.
There are exceptions for nonessential use, including handheld hose watering and irrigating parks and recreational fields, outside the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
One resident, Sandra Balfe, balked at recreational fields being excluded, and called for erasing that allowance.
“We can’t water our own lawns,” Balfe said.
Recreation Director Jeff Plympton reminded residents the town put “a lot of money into our recreational fields.”
“It is going to cost the town a lot more,” finance committee member Kelly Williams warned, if the fields have to be restored. Williams also pointed out “a lot more kids benefit” from the fields.