From cooking, washing, bathing, and drinking, cleanliness and quantity of water is important but not always recognized for its critical role in our everyday lives. Thus, there is National Drinking Water Week, which is celebrated the first week of May each year and this year between May 3-9. Drinking Water Week is intended to bring awareness to the importance of a reliable and safe source of drinking water in our daily lives, which is underscored by this year’s theme: “There when you need it.”. With less than one percent of the Earth’s water being drinkable freshwater, protection of our precious water resources is vital.
Celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2020, the Woodbury-based environmental not-for-profit Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition’s (PRWC) mission is to promote clean water and sustainable use of water, both groundwater and surface water, in the Pomperaug Watershed communities of Southbury, Woodbury, Bethlehem, Watertown, Middlebury, Morris, Washington, Roxbury, and Oxford. PRWC was founded by local residents in response to threats to local water resources and the concern of development on the quality and quantity of water available for residents. PRWC continues the founders’ work of scientific research on the watershed and education and outreach to the community. The organization’s work not only protects the beautiful river and ecosystems, but helps ensure that water for drinking and recreation is plentiful and safe.
Balancing the water needs of those in the watershed communities is an important part of PRWC’s work and mission. This past year, PRWC, Heritage Village Water Company (HVWC), the CPV Towantic Energy Center, and the Town of Southbury collaborated on the creation and implementation of the Low-Flow Operations Plan. The first part of the plan established three river discharge flows and low-flow mitigation thresholds to provide HWVC customers and private well owners with an increasing level of awareness on the state of river flow. Each mitigation threshold has a corresponding Action Level. With this information readily available to the community, users can respond with appropriate conservation measures, which helps ensure there is enough water for both instream and out-of-stream uses.
The second part of the plan requires CPV Towantic to utilize and alternate sources of water between July 1 through October 30 to reduce the stress of demand on the aquifer during a time of low-flow. Drawing from sources outside of the Pomperaug basin helps to maintain the balance of a healthy ecosystem while providing sufficient water supply.
Another important part of access to drinking water is the quality. Since its founding, PRWC has conducted stream assessments and partnered on scientific studies; and, in 2018, adopted its first EPA-approved Watershed Based Plan. As recommended in this Plan, PRWC will expand stream assessments this summer with its Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). With additional sampling sites and updated data, bacteria and nitrate levels can be monitored allowing sites to be flagged if trends arise. With this knowledge, sources of pollution can be identified and addressed to ensure safe, high quality water.
Every summer, with the fantastic help of the YCC crew, PRWC completes conservation projects that improve both the quality and quantity of drinking water available for the community. Since 2017, the crew has planted a one thousand square foot rain garden that captures 483,000 gallons annually, preventing pollutants from directly entering streams, installed 850 stormdrain markers on 76 roads, and assembled 83 rain barrels to capture stormwater runoff.
While PRWC works hard to protect your water, there are steps you can take in your own home. Learn about how you can check for leaks and repair them in your home, check online for drought conditions, conserve with grey water systems, test your own drinking water, and report any problems to your supplier. During this Drinking Water Week, extend a thank you to your water utility for keeping the water flowing during these difficult times. Being conscious of your water usage helps ensure that drinking water is available, plentiful, and safe for everyone to use.
Learn more about the Pomperaug Watershed and local drinking water supplies.