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Jessie Levine
Town Manager
New London, NH

July 13, 2010

Last week the New London-Springfield Water Precinct issued a ban on outdoor watering during the hours of 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM. This decision by the Water Precinct Commissioners has generated a few questions that I will attempt to answer here.

The Water Precinct was formed in 1925 for the specific purposes of providing water for domestic use and for fire protection (a more detailed history can be found in James Squires’s Mirror to America: A History of New London, New Hampshire (1900-1950)).  Historically, water was drawn from Morgan Pond in Springfield, but in 1996, the Water Precinct finished drilling six gravel packed wells located on Colby Point that draw from the aquifer under Little Sunapee Lake. At night, water is pumped from the wells to a one-million-gallon storage tank above Twin Lake Villa, and during the day the water is fed to town by gravity as needed.

Based on the aquifer’s ability to generate water, the “new” wells have the capacity to produce around 500,000 gallons of water per day. For most of the year, New London residents and businesses use about 250,000-300,000 gallons per day, and that amount is pumped from the wells back into the holding tank at night (notably, the gallon-per-minute rate that the pumps can handle may not match the daily generation capacity of the wells).

In the populated summer months – especially during a dry summer – water use begins to spike to 550,000-600,000 gallons per day. At that rate, the aquifer and the pumps are unable to completely re-fill the storage tank overnight, which means that the tank will be lower and lower every morning and there will be less water available for drinking and for fire protection. Last week, the tank was down by one-foot, then two-feet… hence the water restriction during daytime hours.

This marked increase in water use is almost entirely attributable to outside irrigation, which is not one of the purposes for which the Water Precinct was created.  The Precinct was created for domestic water and fire protection and not for the greening of lawns. Furthermore, a common practice for irrigation is for homeowners to leave hoses running or to set timers to water lawns during the heat of the day, which means that a large portion of the water evaporates and even more is needed to keep lawns and plants alive. Watering at night or in early morning decreases the overall amount of water used and increases its effectiveness.

In other words, the water ban is needed not because the dry conditions affect the water supply itself, but because in these conditions more people are using more water for purposes beyond those for which the Water Precinct was formed. Once we have measurable rain, the water ban could be lifted because water users will be less likely to draw on public water for private irrigation.

Because of issues like adequate water supply, the Water Precinct engaged a long range engineering study of its system that found, among other things, that there was insufficient ability to pump water to the highest points of town for fire protection and there was no back-up supply for drinking water or fire protection should the single water line from Springfield be compromised. The study recommended adding a second water main, adding booster pumps up-town to increase the flow of water to fire hydrants, and/or installing a storage tank on higher ground on the other side of town.  

In 2006, with Colby-Sawyer College’s cooperation and voter support, the Water Precinct constructed a booster pump station and water storage tank on the campus of Colby-Sawyer College, underneath the view easement on property formerly owned by the Cleveland and DiLorenzo families.

The tank at the College provides backup domestic water should there be a water main break somewhere in the infrastructure that blocks the supply of water from the tank in Springfield, and, with the booster pumps in place, also provides sufficient fire protection up town. The tank was not constructed to provide more water for lawn irrigation (as with the primary storage tank in Springfield, the tank at the College would have to be refilled every night if it were drawn down during the day, even further taxing the ability to regenerate water).

As the Town Office celebrates its 10th anniversary in the Old Colby Academy building donated to the Town by Colby-Sawyer College, the Town and Water Precinct are ever-grateful for the collaborative relationship we both share with the College.

Many people do not realize that the Water Precinct is not a department of the Town of New London and is not overseen by the Board of Selectmen. The Water Precinct is a separate “village district,” which state law (NH RSA Chapter 52) allows to be formed for certain purposes, such as fire protection, water impoundment, or maintaining public sidewalks or sewer systems. Village districts operate much like towns, with an annual meeting in March at which residents within the district boundaries elect commissioners and vote on the Precinct’s annual budget. Approximately 1000 properties in New London and 40 in Springfield are connected to the public water supply, although more properties than that sit within the Water Precinct boundaries.

You will note that your property tax bill contains an additional tax rate for residents who live within the Water Precinct boundaries. The Town collects the property tax on behalf of the Water Precinct and turns the entire portion over to the Precinct (plus the Town pays the Water Precinct for the maintenance of fire hydrants). The Water Precinct uses the money raised by property tax for its long-range capital costs, while the annual operating costs are covered by user fees from those actually connected to water.

The current New London-Springfield Water Precinct commissioners are John MacKenna, Ken Jacques, and Jim Cricenti, and they usually meet on the first Monday night of every month at the Precinct’s offices on Old Dump Road in New London. The daily operations of the Precinct are managed by a superintendent; for the past few years, this position was held by Todd Cartier, who will be leaving the Precinct on August 1. It was a pleasure working with Todd and we wish him well in his new role with the Hanover Water Works.

If you have any further questions or would like to speak directly to a Water Precinct Commissioner, feel free to call their offices at 526-4441 and your call will be returned.


Jessie Levine, Town Administrator
375 Main Street
New London, NH 03257
603-526-4821 extension 13
Fax: 603-526-9494

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