Town residents are being asked to forego watering their lawns and gardens until Tuesday after a failed pump motor left its largest water district in short supply this week.
Clark Collins, the town’s senior water treatment plant operator, said more than two weeks of non-stop pumping caused the aging motor to falter earlier this week. As a result, he said the district’s water capacity has since struggled to keep up with residential demand, which spiked at more than 9 million gallons a day before the outage — the district’s water usage averages around 3.5 million gallons per day during the winter.
Abnormally dry conditions over the past three weeks have prompted many residents to water plants and lawns much more frequently. And unlike some municipalities, Rotterdam residents pay a flat annual rate for water, meaning the average house can consume upward of 450 gallons per day.
“These pumps are going 24 hours a day, non-stop,” Collins said.
The town issued its first restriction on watering lawns immediately prior to the Independence Day holiday last week because of the low capacity of its water tanks. That restriction ended Friday. The current restriction began Monday following the pump failure.
Collins said the town has already purchased a rebuilt motor for $5,000 and anticipates having it online at the Rice Road treatment plant later this week. He plans to fix the old motor so the district can have a spare on hand if another break-down occurs.
“If people conserve on water for the next couple days, we’ll be OK,” he said.
Rotterdam, like all Schenectady County municipalities, pumps its water from the sprawling Great Flats Aquifer. The 14-mile-long underground source is capable of supplying 35 million gallons per day.
This plentiful supply means town residents often don’t take the same conservation measures seen in communities that bill depending on usage. Collins said even when water restrictions are imposed, it seems few people take notice.
“People don’t seem to adhere to them,” Collins said.
Town police and code enforcement officers are responsible for enforcing the ban. Violators face a fine of up to $500, according to town code.
Town police Lt. Jason Murphy said officers generally alert residents of the ban and issue a warning. If officers are called back to a home, he said, they will issue a summons.
So far, no citations have been issued. Murphy said many residents were simply unaware of the bans until being informed by police.
“People are compliant once they’re told,” he said.