Tag Archives: Reservoirs

Worcester, watered-down

Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has been front and center vis-a-vis environmental issues, energy conservation and green building in Worcester.      photo submitted

Rose’s bathroom sink runneth over.     pic: R.T.

By Gordon Davis

Worcester has experienced a shortfall of rain for four of five years, ending in 2016. It looks like the shortfall will continue. Although this could be an anomaly, it could also be a pattern. It might be the beginning of a new normal where 38 inches of rain per year is all we get.

As Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has shown us by standing in the dry ground exposed by low water, Worcester reservoirs are less than half-filled after the five-year shortfall. The intakes for the reservoirs are now above the water level and cannot draw in water.

The City of Worcester has taken some emergency measures, such as buying water from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) that runs the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs. It pays the MWRA $1.7 million per month for the water. The money comes from the City’s general funds. This expenditure will be made for the foreseeable future.

This money is needed elsewhere, such as the public schools.

The City of Worcester has also instituted water use restrictions that have helped to mitigate the shortfall. However, even with the restrictions, the level of water in the reservoirs have not risen above 50 percent.

First of all, let me say that water is a human right. We deserve clean drinking water for no other reason than we are people. The people in Flint, Michigan, are the victims of human rights violations. Throughout the world denial of water could be used as a weapon or a means of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Secondarily, water is an asset for a region. Like affordable energy, water is vital for a prosperous community. There have been examples of civilizations that cease to exist due to the drought conditions brought on by climate change. The Akkadian Empire, Khmer Empire and the Puebloan Culture are historical examples.

Of course, I am not saying that New England or even Worcester is facing imminent demise. I am suggesting some thought should go into the possibility that 38 inches of rain a year is the new average for the region.

The Worcester City Council has wasted its time and resources on nice but less vital issues such as dog parks and mounted patrols. There should a report from the City Manager on the short-term and long-term effects of the drought on Worcester and how the City plans to respond to it.

As we have seen, the reservoirs of the City will have to be redesigned. This is because 38 inches of rain will not keep them filled. Water use will have to be increasingly recycled. Roof water and runoff should be increasingly harvested …

This issue is actually a state or regional and federal issue.

The redesign and improvements to reservoirs is beyond the budgets of all cities and towns in Massachusetts.

As the federal government has become involved in the improvement of infrastructure like roads and bridges, it will likely have to become involved in the infrastructure of dams and reservoirs of water-short areas.

With the Trump presidency, water infrastructure improvement is unlikely to occur. This is especially true, as both the state voters and our Republican governor voted against the president-elect.

Water is a Human Right


By Gordon Davis
The recent low water levels of Worcester’s water reservoirs brought back negative memories from the early 1960s when the east coast of the United States experienced drought-like conditions.  

The west coast of the United States has recently experienced something similar. A lot of people on the east coast are just too young to feel anxiety about low reservoirs.

Yesterday, the Worcester reservoirs were about 89 percent full. They should be 100 percent full and overflowing at this time of the year.

Snowmelt and April showers have been historically the main source of water in the spring.

The reservoirs are then drawn down by use over the summer and fall. The low levels of Worcester’s reservoirs today could mean water rationing later in the year.

I cannot say that this is due to Global Warming, but it is one of my fears.

When I was growing up in the 1950s in the streets of Philadelphia, there was abundant water. Philadelphia got most of its water from the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. Because there was plenty of water, the City turned on the fire hydrants in the summer. We kids played in the flooded streets!

As the water basins for these rivers dried up, the salt from the Atlantic Ocean moved farther upstream. If this salt line had hit the water processing plants, Philadelphia would have been out of water. There was some anger at New York City, which took more and more water from the head waters of the Delaware River. Each day then, I would buy the newspaper for my Dad, and before giving it to him I would sneak a peek at the map of the salt line.  Today, get the paper and look to see how full the reservoirs are.

Most people and organizations in the world believe that water is a human right.  

Public water supply is almost the very definition of common good.

The chair of Nestle, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, does not see water as a common good. He sees water as a commodity and a means to make a profit. He certainly puts a chill in my spine.

I suppose I should not be surprised. I have seen vendors sell water to very thirsty people on a hot day marching for justice for $4 a little bottle. I have seen municipalities prohibit the capture of rain water from a private house roof.

The City of Worcester encourages people to capture roof water and it provides, for a price, rain barrels. The rain barrels can be ordered through the City of Worcester website.

It is only rarely I drink bottled water, mostly when travelling. I think water in plastic bottles to be energy-inefficient and the plastic to be a hazard for some living things.

The City of Worcester monitors its water supply and lets us know of hazards. Unlike the City, water bottling companies take water from some unknown source and they never says much about the water quality.

My Worcester water bill came today.  I am always annoyed that it is so high. I suppose this is incentive to get that rain barrow and remodel with a more efficient water use device.

Every so often images of water shortages, Global Warming, water hoarding and wars for water give me pause.