1. What authority does the Town of Dover have to implement and enforce water use restrictions?

At the May 2022 Town Meeting the residents of Dover voted to adopt a Water Restriction Bylaw. The Massachusetts Attorney General has reviewed and approved the new bylaw. It is now in effect. This covers all water sources in the Town including; Aquarian, Dover Municipal Water, and private wells.

On August 18, 2022, the Board of Selectmen approved the Water Restriction Bylaw Enforcement Policy(link), which ensures that the citizens of Dover are aware of the newly created Water Use Restrictions and assist in the reduction of water consumption during states of water conservation, drought, or water emergency. While this policy focuses on  education first to further the goals of water use reductions, the restrictions can be enforced through the enforcement section of the bylaw. Read the full policy here: Water Restriction Bylaw Enforcement Policy.

At present, the Massachusetts Department of Protection (MassDEP) regulates all Public Water Suppliers (PWSs), like the Aquarion Water Company, that has a permit through the Water Management Act (WMA) to pump water. That permit limits the amount of water that the PWS can withdraw from the aquifer and also requires that the companies develop and implement a water conservation program. However, there is little if any enforcement of the permit terms. 

2. How does Dover determine when to recommend special water conservation actions?

There is a statewide Drought Management Task Force that is under the authority of the Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (MAOEEA) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). The Drought Management Task Force meets frequently during the summer months to assess the condition of water supplies in the state.  It then recommends that the Secretary issue various declarations of level of drought situations in the state and ask citizens to adjust their behavior accordingly.

3.  How do I find out information about the present level of recommended water conservation actions?

The Town of Dover communicates its recommendations for water conservation actions using the Town’s webpage, social media platforms and signage around town. 

Aquarion Water Company customers should expect to receive communication directly from the company on general conservation activities and specific emergency declarations. 

Water use restrictions are especially recommended during seasonal peak demand periods (May-September) due to the impact of irrigation systems on water usage. When MassDEP declares a drought warning or drought emergency, dedicated informational signs are placed throughout the town. 

If you are interested in subscribing to the Town of Dover newsflash opt-in email system and are not currently registered, you can opt-in by using the following link:  https://www.doverma.gov/list.aspx 

4.  What are the drought levels used by the Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force and what do the levels mean?

The Drought Management Plan was published in September 2019 with a goal to prepare for and respond to drought conditions in 7 regions within the state. Dover is in the Southeast Region. The drought categories are based on several data indices and address nonessential outdoor watering. 

Private well users are requested to voluntarily adhere to the restrictions as well as the customers of Public Water Suppliers like the Aquarion Water Company. 

The levels and restrictions are:

  • Level 0   Normal
  • Level 1   Mild Drought: 1 day/week watering 5pm - 9am
  • Level 2   Significant Drought: watering limited to hand-held hoses or watering cans and 
                      only between 5pm - 9am
  • Level 3   Critical Drought: ban on all nonessential outdoor water use
  • Level 4   Emergency Drought: ban on all nonessential outdoor water use  

5.  It just rained X inches this weekend. How can we still be in a drought?

Drought declarations in Massachusetts (and elsewhere) are based upon a number of considerations detailed in the state’s Drought Plan and are driven by much more than short term precipitation amounts.  Even a large rainfall in a short duration may do very little to recharge our aquifers.  During the summer months, for example, most precipitation becomes either soil moisture that returns to the atmosphere through evaporation through the soil and plants, or becomes surface runoff that ends up in streams and rivers. So, we should be happy for the rain (and turn off our irrigation systems).

6. Why is outdoor water conservation focused on irrigation systems?

It is estimated that lawn and landscaping irrigation account for over half of all household water consumption during the months from May through September. While all residents should adopt water conservation methods both indoors and outside throughout the year, saving water during the summer is as simple as turning off your irrigation system and/or adjusting it to use much less water. The watering of gardens, flowerbeds and trees can be accomplished by use of a bucket, spring-loaded spray nozzle, or micro/drip irrigation.

7.  What features should a lawn irrigation have in order to reduce unnecessary water usage?

Per state regulations (MGL Ch.21.67), irrigation systems should include a programmable controller that automatically manages the flow and timing of water use, and a moisture sensing device to automatically shut off systems based upon rain events. New smart wifi-based controllers can be monitored and managed remotely by either you or your irrigation provider from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. These devices are promoted to reduce water consumption by about 30%.

8. What actions can I take to reduce my outdoor watering?

Outdoor watering is most efficient between 5pm and 9am. Sunlight significantly increases evaporation, meaning that water that was intended to reach your lawn is lost to the air. Dover recommends outdoor watering between the hours of 5am-7am to maximize uptake and limit the amount of residual surface moisture, which can leave your plants susceptible to mold.

You can also mow your lawn at a taller height, plant native shrubs and trees, use drip irrigation, and use a rain barrel to collect water (available at the Dover Transfer Station and at the Dover Town Garage).

9.  What about watering new lawns and landscaping?

All tree and shrub plantings and new lawns should be planted in the spring or fall to avoid irrigation during the summer months when water use should be limited. In addition, plants native to the region can be used in your landscape design to reduce watering needs.

10.  What can I do to conserve water indoors?

According to the EPA, the two most water- wasting categories in a house are leaks and inefficient products. High efficiency toilets, dishwashers, clothes washers, aerators, and other low flow devices are effective in conserving water. Just like there are products labelled Energy Saver, there are WaterSense faucets, showerheads, toilets, etc. that have been certified as water reducers by the EPA. Look for these products when buying new and take a look at the provided links for tips on evaluating your indoor water use and improving your water conservation.