While drought restrictions around the state have been lifted, a decrease in the amount of wells in operation for Ridgewood Water means that restrictions on Glen Rock residents’ watering their lawns will become permanent, officials of the utility told a meeting of the Glen Rock Borough Council Wednesday night.
Richard Calbi, the Director of Ridgewood Water, told the council of the April 12 resolution passed by the Ridgewood Village Council which will keep the Stage 2 restrictions that are currently in effect in place year-round. Calbi told the council that even though Glen Rock and the other municipalities that Ridgewood Water serves – Midland Park and Wyckoff – have not yet passed their own water restriction ordinances, the utility will abide by the restrictions in the Ridgewood ordinance because those are the rules in effect under the Stage 2 restrictions, which were never lifted. Though New Jersey lifted its statewide water restrictions, the Stage 2 restrictions for customers of Ridgewood Water were not lifted, Calbi said, because Ridgewood Water cannot supply enough water to its customers without them.
“Ridgewood Water cannot sustain summer watering that occurs in this system,’’ he said. “At one point, we had 55 wells, currently we have 39 active.’’
Most of the wells that are not active are contaminated, he said, though one may be because of mechanical failure. The utility is looking to treat the wells and see if they can reclaim them, he said. If not, then the wells will be abandoned and new wells will be drilled. Additionally, the utility is looking to buy more water. Normally, Ridgewood Water buys up to 3 million gallons of water per day from outside sources, Calbi said, and the utility will be looking to buy up to an additional 2 million gallons per day.
The hope, he said, is that within five years the restrictions would finally be able to be lifted. But in the meantime, the utility needs the Stage 2 restrictions to continue. Those restrictions include odd-even watering, where odd-numbered street addresses are allowed to water only on Tuesdays and Saturdays and even-numbered addresses can water only on Wednesdays and Sundays. Public properties, such as the grounds at Borough Hall, would allow for watering on Mondays and Fridays, as those properties may not be able to accommodate weekend watering.
Automated sprinkler systems are limited to watering between the hours of 3-7 a.m. on the allowed days, and no watering of any kind is allowed between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. A rain sensor is required for automatic systems, he said, to ensure that the sprinklers don’t go on when it is raining. Homeowners who have their own wells are under the restrictions as well, he said.
There are exemptions. Homeowners with an irrigation system that is underground and delivers water directly to the roots are exempt from the restrictions except for the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily prohibition. And systems that have smart controllers – which have the type of soil, grass and other plantings programmed in and can therefore calculate the yard’s need and water only when needed – are exempt as well, except for the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. restriction.
Mayor Bruce Packer said Glen Rock talked about creating its own water restrictions ordinance last year, but tabled it, in order to allow Ridgewood to do theirs first. Glen Rock will be proposing a new ordinance of its own in the near future.
Packer said he was concerned with the appearance of the borough trying to tell homeowners what to do with their own property, but said the problem is a real one.
“We need to make people understand that there really is a reason for this,’’ Packer said. “If you talk to our Fire Chief, he’ll tell you that when there is a drought, there is a real possibility we could be trying to fight a fire and not have enough water. So there are practical reasons why we don’t want the water levels to get too low.’’
A borough resident at the meeting, during the open public questions section, told Calbi of the proposed Glen Park Village development, which is currently seeking approval from the Glen Rock Zoning Board to build a 57-unit rental complex on Prospect Street. He asked what kind of strain such a development might put on the utility’s resources.
Answering in general terms, Calbi admitted that such a development would mean a demand for “extra water the system has to provide.’’ He said any such development would need to get approval from the Department of Environmental Protection and from Ridgewood Water before being allowed to continue. Currently, he said, on paper there is a surplus of water available, but the state is re-examining the available water, and if that surplus becomes a deficit, then the state would not allow a development that size to go forward.