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Sep 26, 2016 7:38 PM

NH cities and towns continue issuing outdoor water bans in response to extreme drought


ROCHESTER — Drought conditions in the Granite State are only getting worse, and more municipalities are responding by limiting how much water their residents are allowed to use.

Rochester’s outdoor water use ban went into effect on Monday, prohibiting residents from watering lawns, watering by hose unless for “incidental use,” and washing vehicles. Exceptions to the ban include commercial car washes, farms, and garden centers.

However, much like other water bans in place across the state, any residents who violate the ban will receive a written warning. Any subsequent violations could result in $100 fines for each offense, up to getting water service completely turned off.

According to the city’s Director of Services for the Department of Public Works John Storer, both of Rochester’s water supply sources are at extremely low levels.

The city’s main sources of water are the Rochester Reservoir and Round Pond. Storer said the department likes to have each source level well above 90 percent, but the reservoir is down to 80 percent and the pond is down to 62 percent.

He also said the department waited as long as it could to implement a full ban, understanding the needs of residents, especially businesses.

Rochester is one of 124 communities and water systems in New Hampshire to implement some form of water restrictions in response to the drought. It is also one of 27 to implement full outdoor use bans.

Some residents understand the necessity of the ban, saying the drought is killing trees and creating serious safety concerns.

“All of a sudden we heard a big crash,” said Susan Strebel, whose house is along the Cocheco river. “My grandkids came running in and it was a big tree. It looked like it got really dry and it just fell off. It was too close to my home for it to come down.”

Strebel said she used to take her grandchildren down onto her dock by the river, but since the tree fell last week, she’s too nervous too.

However, Strebel did know about the water ban and thought with the cooler weather, obeying the ban shouldn’t be an issue.

“We just have to, tighten up a little bit,” she said. “Just kind of pray for more rain. I think that’s the only thing we can do, right?”

Rochester isn't the only large municipality taking action. Merrimack also implemented more strict guidelines to its existing voluntary water restrictions.

On Monday evening, commissioners from the Manchester Water Works met and decided to implement a voluntary water restriction for the city, rather than a complete ban, according to the Union Leader.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services regularly updates resources for drought management on its website.

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