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SCWA rescinds Stage 1 Water Emergency, says summer drought should be ‘wake-up call’ for residents

The Suffolk County Water Authority on Thursday rescinded the Stage 1 Water Emergency that went into effect during the summer to combat drought conditions.

Officials with SCWA said recent rain and decreased temperatures has led to less strain on water infrastructure in the morning hours when residents typically activate automated sprinkler systems. During the last week of August, SCWA system pumpage averaged 500,000 gallons per minute between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., whereas this past week, the figured dropped to 360,000 gallons per minute, the SCWA said in a press release.

The SCWA has asked residents in Southold, Shelter Island, Southampton and East Hampton towns to stop all irrigation between midnight and 7 a.m., reduce shower times and refrain from non-essential water use.

The SCWA said Thursday that most of Long Island remains in a state of drought and residents need to be “more responsive to future calls for conservation to ensure there is enough water for everyone, particularly during peak hours.”

“What happened this summer should be a wake-up call for Suffolk residents to reduce water use in their daily lives,” SCWA Chairman Patrick Halpin said in a statement. “This was a particularly bad summer, but peak hours have been a problem for years. We appreciate those who listened, but the truth is, we did not get enough cooperation from our customers.”

He added that the county was lucky it did not have to fight a major fire during a time when water pressure was dangerously low.

Mr. Halpin said SCWA officials are in the process of developing a comprehensive water conservation plan that will “be enforceable and serve as a blueprint for the long-term sustainability of the sole source aquifer that provides 100% of our drinking water.” SCWA currently has no policing power and does not levy fines or penalties.

Jeffrey Szabo, the SCWA chief executive officer, emailed customers Thursday to alert them the water emergency had been rescinded. He thanked customers who responded to the pleas for conservation.

The water emergency was first declared in Southampton Village and spread across the East End and to the entire SCWA service territory.

SCWA services approximately 10,000 residents in Southold Town.

Joe Pokorny, deputy CEO for operations at SCWA, said earlier this month that irrigating landscapes in the early evening is a good alternative to early morning, while adding that people shouldn’t water their lawns every day either. “One or two good soakings a week is the best strategy,” he said.

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