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Aquarion, Hingham plan for long-term water needs

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  November 15, 2013 02:56 PM

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Courtesy of Aquarion

A chart showing water usage in 2012 shows how the usage, though it goes above the limit during some months, maintains a 3.5 million gallons a day average

Despite an ongoing confrontation between Hingham and Aquarion Water Co. over a potential sale of the town’s water infrastructure, both sides said they are committed to working together to ensure there is enough water to meet the town’s ever-growing demand.

In a recent meeting with Hingham's Development and Industrial Commission, Aquarion officials discussed the effects of future development, specifically how growth in the South Shore Industrial Park could change demands on the town’s water.

“We’re projecting the demand for water is going to increase and it will reach a point where the demand exceeds the registration limit,” said John Walsh, Aquarion vice-president of operations for Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. “We do project that by 2030 we will be above that limit.”

The issue isn’t so much that the town will run out of water, Walsh said, but that the demand will outstrip the state’s usage restrictions, unchanged at an average of 3.51 million gallons a day since the limit was imposed in the 1980s.

Though Aquarion has been able to maintain that average for the past 10 years, increased development in the industrial park, located on the Hingham/Weymouth line, could change that.

“It depends if that development happens,” Walsh said. “That’s why we’re working with the town on this. We want to stay close to this issue to get a good understanding if there will be the development in this in this area of town.”

Selectman Bruce Rabuffo said he was pleased that Aquarion had their eye on the issue, despite disagreements over the town’s desire to buy the water infrastructure from the company.

“If we elect not to buy the water company, I have to work with Aquarion and they have to work with the town. It’s good to keep dialogue open. That’s important. This is a disagreement, but it’s not irreparable,” he said.

Rabuffo noted that the discussion over the relationship of town water and the industrial park began long before discussions of buying the system.

In fact, over the last 10 years, Aquarion has imposed numerous methods to keep the numbers down for the service area of Hingham, Hull, and Cohasset

Part of the method to keeping usage low were the water restrictions imposed on outdoor watering during the summer. Another was a “water balance plan,” which forces developers on projects bigger than two residential homes to offset their projected water usage by reducing existing usage elsewhere in the system.

“Some choose to retrofit public buildings that have old toilets with low flush toilets, and developers can also, if they can’t find existing facilities to retrofit, they can provide funds to us and it’s our job to provide conservation opportunities,” Walsh said.

However, those methods won’t be enough if the South Shore Industrial Park is fully built out. The town would be forced to seek additional water resources, an expensive and cumbersome process that could ultimately increase rates.

“It costs money to do the planning, design, and construction of a new source of supply,” Walsh said. “It’s when you make the decision to start spending that money – eventually it impacts the rates. We’re always thinking of the impact on rates and making sure we spend prudently. It’s a balancing act and that’s why we want to keep close to the town.”

Rabuffo said despite that work, he hopes Aquarion will also address the ongoing leakage within the water system.

“The water leakage – they’re supposed to not have any more than 10 percent loss water through leakage in the system. That’s what the Department of Environmental Protection have suggested. They are nowhere near that,” Rabuffo said.

Other solutions might change depending on future development and other factors, Rabuffo said, but the important thing is work was ongoing.

“I’m happy to see they are looking at it,” Rabuffo said.

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