HINSDALE, Mass. — With reservoir levels for the city's water supply continuing to decline, Pittsfield city officials prepare to move into stage 2 of the water conservation plan.
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and Public Utilities Commissioner Ricardo Morales met at the Cleveland Brook Reservoir on Friday morning to announce a city-wide public outreach campaign to facilitate the movement into Stage 2 of Pittsfield's drought management plan.
"I know the people of Pittsfield have been through a lot in the past six months, and these are difficult times. So much of what we enjoy about our lives has been interrupted," Tyer said in a statement released Friday. "This certainly adds another layer of complications to our daily routines. However, it is extraordinarily important that we all pay attention to our water supply and do what we can to conserve."
Last week the city initiated Stage 1 of the city's drought management plan. This was in step with the state's Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs declaration of a Level 2 Significant Drought in all seven regions of the Commonwealth.
Stage 1 of the drought management plan outlined voluntary restrictions to lessen outdoor water usage. Under stage 1, residents were asked to limit activities such as lawn watering, vehicle washing, and filling swimming pools. The public was advised to only do these activities between 7 am and 7 pm on alternate days.
Stage 2 will have the same restrictions under the same schedule but will not be voluntary. This stage of the drought management plan aims to communicate that each person plays an important role in the conservation of our water supply.
"Stage 2 keeps the same schedule for water conservation with the same activity restrictions; however, this stage is mandatory and will be enforced," Commissioner Morales said Friday.
Once Stage 2 is in effect, warnings will be issued to repeat offenders for not complying with the water usage regulations. Those not following requests after a warning will have a $50 fine added to their sewer bill for every offense.
Before mandatory restrictions begin, the city will implement a city-wide public outreach campaign to ensure that residents are informed about the coming water restrictions before they go into effect. Messages will be shared through the city's CodeRED notification system, social media, public service announcements, and the city website.
Morales said the city is monitoring the timeline for Stage 2 and expect that it will begin in the next two weeks. He estimated that Sept. 16 will mark its first day.
Tyer spoke about the water supply as "something we often take for granted." She pointed out that the rocky shoreline of the reservoir behind her would normally be below shore level.
Chief Water Treatment Operator Robert Bondini, who was also in attendance, said water levels have not been this low in the Cleveland Reservoir since 2016.
The Cleveland Brook Reservoir is the largest reservoir in Pittsfield's system, providing two-thirds of the water for the city. Currently, the reservoir is 7.1 feet below full, not far from the 8 feet below full marker that would trigger Stage 2 of the drought management plan for the City of Pittsfield.
If water levels continue to drop, Stage 3 will introduce a new restriction that does not allow the use of outdoor water with manual or automatic equipment. Hand watering would be the only permitted use of outdoor water.
Stage 4 would strictly not allow outdoor water use for Pittsfield residents, and the regulations would be extended to commercial and industrial users. To reach stage 4, the water would have to be a staggering 16 feet below full.
The drought's recovery isn't expected to be linear; it could get worse before it gets better. Morales explained that it is important for the levels to be monitored with the state as well as the city's own predictions. Along with this, Pittsfield residents' participation is imperative to raising the reservoirs' water levels.