After years of urging Riverhead Water District customers to irrigate conservatively, the Riverhead Town Board is proposing to make water conservation mandatory between April 15 and Sept. 15.

The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed water conservation law at its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.

On a typical hot summer day, the Riverhead Water District needs to pump about 20 million gallons of water, using all of the town’s wells. The town estimates that up to 80 percent of the increased demand is for irrigation. That’s more than six times more water needed than on a typical winter day, when only three or four wells can supply the town’s demand.

In recent years, the town has urged residents to adopt odd/even day watering schedules during times of drought, watering their lawns on odd days if their property has an odd street number, and on even days if they have an even street number, and has asked residents and businesses to refrain from irrigating in the early morning hours, when there is the greatest demand.

If enacted, the water conservation law would mandate odd/even watering schedules between April 15 and Sept. 15, and would prohibit any irrigation between the hours of 5 and 9 a.m. during those months.

The law would allow the Town Supervisor, during times when a Water Emergency, to declare further restrictions.

Water customers who violate the restrictions would be given up to five days to correct the violation, after which the Water District superintendent could shut off water service to the property, and the town code enforcement and police departments could issue fines ranging from “not less than” $250 for the first offense to not less than $1,500 for the third and every subsequent offense, and/or imprisonment for a maximum of 15 days for each offense after the second offense.

The full text of the proposed local law is on page 164 of this document.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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