By Brian M. Rafferty
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday that New York City and four other counties using water supplied by upstate reservoirs will be placed under a Stage 1 drought emergency effective April 1.
Because reservoir levels are well below the 85 percent capacity considered safe to last through the summer, there will be many changes for personal and business public water users.
Under the new regulations, enforceable by fines and even arrest, the following is mandated:
• No washing of vehicles
• No washing of sidewalks, driveways or streets
• Watering of lawns is restricted to 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for even-numbered addresses on even-numbered days and odd-numbered addresses on odd-numbered days
• Golf courses may only water tees and greens
• Ornamental fountains must be turned off
• Private swimming pools may still be filled, but if the emergency moves to advanced stages, this will be prohibited
• Businesses must reduce water consumption by 15 percent
“I urge all of our more than 2 million residents and our businesses to observe the restrictions to help prevent a bad situation from getting worse,” Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said Tuesday. “Working together, we can have a tremendous impact on water conservation.”
Marshall also discussed the borough’s plans for reopening closed wells in southeast Queens as soon as the city Department of Environmental Protection gives the clearance to do so. Aware of health concerns about the closed wells, Marshall noted, “I have received assurances from DEP that no wells will be reopened unless they meet strict Department of Health guidelines.”
Private companies would operate the wells.
Violations of the water restriction can range between $100 and $1,000, according to the DEP.
The declaration of the drought emergency comes just six weeks after a drought warning was issued Jan. 27. During that period, city residents have been heeding the government’s pleas for reducing water consumption, using 30 million gallons per day less than before.
“However voluntary conservation alone can’t make up for the lack of rainfall,” Bloomberg said. “Therefore, we must take more stringent measures to increase protection of the supply and reduce water use.”