A sprinkler system outside a River Road home in Fair Haven. New Jersey American Water has asked residents to consider voluntary water restrictions in anticipation of a hot, dry summer. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Following the brief blast of heat and dry weather in the area nearly two weeks ago, and in preparation for more of it this summer, New Jersey American Water sent a letter to local mayors suggesting residents consider voluntary water restrictions at home.
On its face, it’s a move by the water company to help prevent what happened last year, and all of a sudden: a mandatory restriction that confounded locals at the height of a holiday weekend.
But at least one Fair Haven official is calling the water company out, and questions whether it has made the necessary improvements to its treatment and distribution system to handle growing demand in Monmouth County.
“We’re starting pretty early in the year to be asking to (reduce) our consumption,” Council President Jon Peters said. “We were told last year this was anomalous. We’re going to be watching very closely.”
Peters said NJAM told Fair Haven officials last year, when a water restriction was put in place on the July 4 weekend with little warning, that its reservoir levels were low and it didn’t have the proper distribution facilities to handle the demand in such hot and dry conditions.
His fear is that the water company’s treatment and distribution system isn’t being maintained and/or upgraded to handle its demand.
“How often is this going to come up again?” Peters said. “My point is that I’m watching to see that it was a rare event.”
The company serves 29 municipalities in Monmouth County, and as the county grows, so does demand, according to NJAW communications director Peter Eschbach.
Eschbach said the letter, issued on June 8, was a preventative measure to avoid the mayhem last year’s restriction sparked, when residents, business owners and elected officials were left with few answers on the July 4 weekend.
“We’re just saying, look, it’s summer in New Jersey and we recognize there has been growth in Monmouth County over the last decade and we’re trying to avoid what happened last year,” Eschbach told redbankgreen. “We’re just watching it very closely so we don’t get into a situation where it’s a weekend and all of a sudden it’s business-as-usual to ‘hold on, you can’t use any water.’ ”
The letter to mayors and business administrators asks that residents use an odd/even schedule to water their lawns, and suggests they be watered either early in the morning or in the late afternoon-early evening, according to a letter posted on Mayor Mike Halfacre’s blog.
“We’re not trying to put the onus on customers as much as we are asking for a little help,” Eschbach said.
The company has also taken measures for long-term improvements to its infrastructure, he said, reacting to Peters’s comments. There is a plan to replace a pipe at the company’s Tinton Falls plant with a larger pipe for more water flow, he said. And there is a big, “costly” project on the horizon to install a larger water tank, as well.
“But none of these are quick fixes,” he said. “There’s a great deal of work and a great bunch of engineers working on that, what the solutions are for Monmouth.”
Peters says he will be monitoring the company’s progress.
“I just believe we should keep an eye on it,” he said. “This is the first flag they put up this year.”
Halfacre said he isn’t so alarmed as Peters.
“I think we’re looking a lot into what is pretty much pro-forma,” he said.