Drought forces Cambridge to start buying water from the MWRA

The Cambridge Water Department turned on the spigot for MWRA water this month because of the drought that has dramatically reduced levels in its own reservoirs along Rte. 128.

On Monday, the Cambridge City Council considers allocating $3.6 million to buy 10 million gallons of Quabbin Reservoir water a week for the next three months.

The water department estimates it will have to keep buying MWRA water through next fall, at a cost of about $1.2 million a month - and cautions that could mean higher rates for its customers.

The department says it's also trying to reduce the amount of water large local institutions use, but that it may not get much savings from that:

While additional conservation efforts are an important tool for all users of our water system to participate in, Cambridge’s robust water conservation/water efficiency programs over the past two decades have resulted in Cambridge users using significantly less water per user than other communities in the Commonwealth and will make this more challenging to find significant water usage savings.

Via Cambridge Civic Journal.

Neighborhoods: 

Free tagging: 

Comments

Surprise!

By on

My buddy in Worcester, who recently switched to MWRA water due to their reservoir being dry.. just got his first water bill after they connected to the MRWA.

Needless to say he was in shock at how much his bill went up. This ain't cheap for water customers.

up
Voting is closed. 1

On average …

By on

$11 per person per month. Probably less than that because big users (Harvard, MIT, employers) aren't counted in the population. Of course, lots of us have landlords who pay for our water, so, bottoms up!

up
Voting is closed. 0

its still a big jump

By on

Sure 11 bucks doesn't seem like much.. but water is generally cheap so have it jump by 10-20 bucks in a month is a pretty big jump.

up
Voting is closed. 0

Just updated the post

By on

Because I'm an idiot, I mistakenly wrote they're buying 10 million gallons a month. In fact, it's 10 million gallons a week, which means, roughly 40 million gallons a month, which means the per gallon cost is a lot lower. My apologies for that.

up
Voting is closed. 0

A major improvement

By on

Cambridge's 128-flavored water is the most disgusting-tasting water in the metropolitan area.

up
Voting is closed. 0

Water mailing

By on

Cambridge mass-mails paper water quality reports to Cambridge residents, and the report always looks good when I look at it before tossing it into the shredder.

Are you claiming that there are contaminants in Cambridge water? Not from the nasty old building pipes?

up
Voting is closed. 0

Really?

By on

I regularly drink water from both sides of the river. I challenge you to a taste test (once Cambridge is back to its normal supply) because I honestly can't tell the difference. Which is not to say that MWRA doesn't have fine water. It does; by some accounts the best in the country. Sure there's the joke that Cambridge water is lightly seasoned by road salt and motor oil. But Cambridge isn't Phoenix.

up
Voting is closed. 0

Yechh

I'll take that taste test, and I'll bet that I can pick out the cambridge water 9/10 times. It is gross. Tastes like chemicals and road salt. I pity people who live in cambridge and have to buy drinkable water.

up
Voting is closed. 1

MWRA

By on

Does have some of the best drinking water in the country.

As far as phoenix... buddy lives there. He's from NH. He misses being able to drink clean cold water from the tap because water in Phoenix is like brownish-red.. gross!

We certainly take how clean and great tasting our water is here in New England.

up
Voting is closed. 1

ew

By on

Yeah in the south we called them Palmetto Bugs. About the size of mini Twix candy bar (sorry I've been eating these all morning).

And of course AZ has scorpions. I'll never live somewhere where I need to check my shoes and bed every day for bugs...

up
Voting is closed. 0

Doesn't taste bad to me

By on

As a Cambridge resident, I can tell the difference when the city switches to MWRA water or back again, and I personally prefer the Cambridge water. As I recall, both cities regularly rank high in the national taste tests that are done periodically.

up
Voting is closed. 1

People are going to have to

By on

People are going to have to rethink the kind of growth that they want to see in many areas if they don't want more of these kinds of restrictions. There's only so much available.

That blurb you have quoted is very informative. It suggests while there may have been large efficiency gains years ago for many towns, it's going to be much harder to get those gains in the future.

up
Voting is closed. 1

Growth isn't the problem

By on

Unprecedented lack of rain is.

Note that Quabbin has several years of water.

up
Voting is closed. 1

It's all related

By on

More growth results in more usage for any given amount of rain.

Note that we have fairly rapidly depleted a good portion in a relatively small amount of time.

up
Voting is closed. 0

Hardly

By on

Are you saying that in the past 2 years the City of Cambridge has had massive growth that has depleted its water resources?

I'd be willing to be anything that Cambridge uses less water today than they did 50 years ago.

Supply and demand my friend. The latter has stayed constant in the near term, while the former has fallen greatly.

up
Voting is closed. 1

No. No one said anything

By on

No. No one said anything about massive growth or anything that's now completely gone due to expanded demand.

It said that if there's already issues with the amount that they have, it's going to be even harder to manage if people want to expand.

There's definitely been a significant expansion in recent years, you are just completely wrong that it has stayed constant.

Because these kind of issues with supply already exist, it's going to be harder to manage if you keep up this kind of trend.

up
Voting is closed. 0

We don't need to limit growth

By on

We need to
* fix water pipe leaks throughout the system
* work harder to roll out ultra low flow showers, toilets, faucets
* use IT to identify customers with surge in demand and alert them that they may have a running toilet, dripping spigot, or other waste
* allow use of greywater -- capture rain, flush toilets with it, that sort of thing
* stop irrigating in the rain or at mid-day

There's more than enough waste in our water usage to provide water for a far bigger Boston metro region

up
Voting is closed. 0

Yes you do.

By on

Unless you can somehow create an unlimited supply, then yes, eventually do you need to limit growth.

None of those solutions you propose give you unlimited capacity.

up
Voting is closed. 0

If just this relatively short

By on

If just this relatively short period of dryness resulted in this many new restrictions, then a much larger region would have to conserve even sooner.

up
Voting is closed. 1

Not really all that short

By on

It's actually been going on for a couple years now. Yes, even including the winter of 2015, because that turned out to be pretty "dry" snow - therer wasn't a lot of moisture in it and a lot of it evaporated rather than becoming groundwater.

up
Voting is closed. 0

It probably depends on your

By on

It probably depends on your definition of shorter time frame, but if all these places are facing restrictions after just a year or so, it's something to consider.

up
Voting is closed. 0

This is nonsense

By on

Due to conservation efforts we use hundreds of millions of gallons LESS today than we did 30 years ago.

One reason MWRA’s reservoirs are still in good shape is that water use efficiency in the region has dramatically decreased total water use from over 340 million gallons per day in 1980 to around 200 million gallons per day now.

http://watertown.wickedlocal.com/news/20160819/quabbin-reservoir-has-wat...

We could nearly double our growth at our current usage and only be just above how much water we were using in 1980. And that's after the growth we've *already* experienced between 1980 and today.

up
Voting is closed. 0

Not nonsense if you want sustainability

By on

The usage patterns of the dates you quoted gave much less left over in the of the kind of situation right now.

There's also not the same kind efficiency gains we can have to be had now, since we already fixed those.

This all depends on how much you want to have available at any particular time.

If one would rather just use as much as possible, then by all means don't worry about it. If one wants to make sure we have plenty all the time, then we need to limit growth.

up
Voting is closed. 0

Less conservation

By on

First of all, the relationship between growth and consumption is not a simple line. Don't forget that in ground sprinkler systems are much more common today.

Second, you are basically suggesting we shouldn't try to conserve. The kinds of usage patterns back then resulted in much less left over if we had a similar conditions as to today.

up
Voting is closed. 0

People were pretty dismissive

By on

People were pretty dismissive about suggestions that conservation was needed in this area.

up
Voting is closed. 0

Distribution problem

By on

If you are in a MWRA district, to date the people whose job it is to manage that resource have apparently looked at usage, drought level and forecasts and decided no restrictions were needed yet. What makes it much more complicated IMO is if the default for any shortage out of MWRA district is to just buy water from the Quabbin, then the usage rates will presumably change a lot. Still, 'this area' is a bit vague. If you live in a non MWRA town, then no-one has been saying conservation wasn't needed, were they?

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/water/watersheds/municipal-wate...

Seeing as the MWRA hasn't restricted usage maybe they are confident that the long term prospect of drought is short enough that even 6-12 more months of above average drawn down through water selling isn't a threat to the water system. Or they maybe are overmatched hacks who are just looking to pull money into the system - I have no idea but hope for the former over the later.

up
Voting is closed. 1

Commentators have been

By on

Commentators have been dismissive, seems like what the comment meant.

A lot of places seem to have ran low pretty quickly. To place restrictions is a pretty big decision.

up
Voting is closed. 0

Grass at Fresh Pond is nice and green

By on

I rode my bike past Fresh Pond every day this summer and the sprinklers were often on, even on the two rainy mornings we had, keeping the lawn outside the building there fresh and green. I often wondered if that was a "do as I say, not as I do" sort of thing.

up
Voting is closed. 0

No water emergency then

By on

The levels dropped very fast due to the hot air evaporating water, and the driest summer ever.

up
Voting is closed. 1

Hardly

By on

As the link you provided shows, the Quabbin was 82.5% full on 10/1/16. Yes, the lowest level since 2005, which is as far back as that page goes. But the actual record low is 45%, reached on 3/5/67 (source).

So we've got a ways to go, and we're sucking less water out of the reservoir than 30 years ago, thanks to extensive repairs to aqueducts and mains since the MWRA was created.

This doesn't mean we should be looking at further steps beyond telling people to take shorter showers, but it's not quite time to panic, either.

up
Voting is closed. 0

The difference this time is

By on

The difference this time is that you can't rely on as many big gains in efficiency, as the quote says.

up
Voting is closed. 0

The number of surrounding

By on

The number of surrounding places now have many more customers, so they may become more reliant given the number of restrictions they have.

up
Voting is closed. 0

I don't think Cambridge had a

By on

I don't think Cambridge had a ban on watering your yard. The city set the electronic road signs in Central Square to say "Lend a hand -- water city trees".

up
Voting is closed. 0

What yard?

Cambridge doesn't have significant outdoor water use to begin with. Just a few institutions, and they have been on voluntary restrictions and optimization plans for a while now. Unlike suburbia, ending outdoor watering in Cambridge wouldn't make much difference.

up
Voting is closed. 0

"do as I say, not as I do"

By on

"do as I say, not as I do"

That's the motto of governments pretty much everywhere.

up
Voting is closed. 0

No

It isn't.

Just keep up the truthy aphorisms though. They may remake Forrest Gump yet.

up
Voting is closed. 0