Something interesting is happening in Washington, D.C., this week. April 12-18, 2015 has been designated Water Week. During Water Week, water and wastewater professionals from around the US gather to develop, consider and advocate for national policies that support safe, clean water for everyone in ways that also protect the environment. Something interesting is also happening in northwestern Massachusetts. That area, which includes places like Adams and North Adams, Greenfield, Winchendon and Ashburnham was declared “abnormally dry” last week (April 7). That’s interesting because just one week earlier (March 31), only Adams and North Adams were considered to be “abnormally dry.” Two weeks ago, only North Adams was considered “abnormally dry” and as recently as St. Patrick’s Day, no portion of Massachusetts was experiencing any drought conditions. “Abnormally dry” is the mildest drought classification.
The abnormally dry conditions aren’t reserved for northwestern Massachusetts. Worcester – barely an hour’s drive from Boston – is the first major city in the state to have been declared “abnormally dry” this year. Drought conditions, which have grabbed the headlines in California in the past two weeks, can affect us locally, too. Prolonged drought conditions increase both the likelihood of wildfires, and the magnify the damage they can do.
Conserving treated water is one of the single most effective things we can do to improve our environment. The good news is that water conservation can be done very locally. Preserving and supporting our water table starts with making sure rainwater runoff can be returned to the ground effectively. That can be hard to do in population-dense cities like Boston, where much of the land surface is paved. If you own property in Boston, you can start by building a rain garden – a place that can safely return rainwater runoff from your roof to the ground. Rain gardens can be decorative as well as functional, and can support a wide range of perennial and annual plants that don’t mind getting soggy. You can also install an underground cistern to capture and store rainwater runoff for use on your lawns and gardens. Cisterns can also be used to filter rainwater and return it slowly to the local water table.
If you don’t want to go that far, you can also store rainwater runoff from your roof in rain barrels, which you can use to water lawns and gardens during drier weather. When you capture and use rainwater, you can reduce your own water consumption, save money on your water bill, and more importantly, save treated water for those uses that actually require clean, drinkable water.
As always, check your water fixtures regularly for signs of leaking, and repair or replace faucets, hoses, connectors and pipes that don’t pass muster. If you would like more information about water collection, or capturing and reusing rainwater for lawn or garden maintenance, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We can also help you abate problems caused by overly damp or overly dry conditions inside of your home.
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