Pictured Above: Irrigation of sod in the rain is just one of the more visible signs of unsustainable water use on the East End.

The Suffolk County Water Authority has declared a State 1 Water Emergency for the towns of Southold, Shelter Island, East Hampton and Southampton, asking residents to stop all irrigation between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m., refrain from all non-essential water usage, reduce shower times and embrace other water-saving measures indoors.

Representatives of the Suffolk County Water Authority joined local firefighters and emergency services workers at a press conference in Southampton Village on Tuesday, where the emergency originated, to urge East End residents to take immediate steps to cut their water use amid a prolonged hot and dry period. 

“It is imperative that residents switch the time of day in which they water their lawns away from the early morning hours, when the massive use of automatic lawn irrigation systems is pushing water infrastructure to the brink every morning,” said SCWA Chairman Patrick Halpin.  “Utilizing irrigation systems earlier in the evening will ensure we have water available for emergency services and firefighting purposes.” 

Stage 1 is the first of four stages of water emergency, and is issued when the water shortage is between 1 and 10 percent. By the most serious stage, Stage 4 or a “severe water shortage,” the shortage has increased to 40 percent

At the press conference, held at SCWA’s West Prospect Street pump station in Southampton Village, Mr. Halpin announced at the press conference that the emergency in the village, announced Thursday, July 21, was being expanded to cover all water authority customers on the East End.

Mr. Halpin said that water authority staff would be in the streets in the coming days during the early morning hours to ensure compliance with the water emergency.

He also said that SCWA staff would also be contacting, one-on-one, the biggest water users seeking to get them to cut water use and to guide them how to do so.

“According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 44% of the U.S. is currently in drought situations to varying degrees,” said Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming at the press conference. “East End communities are at a Stage 1 emergency level due to the prolonged hot and dry weather. I applaud the steps being taken by the Suffolk County Water Authority during this time, and we will continue to work alongside them as we monitor the situation. We must collectively act by conserving non-essential water usage and embracing water-saving measures such as rain sensors or smart sprinkler controllers.”

“We ask that property owners and managers heed the requests of our water authority officials to make sure our firefighters have the water volume they need to not only provide proper fire suppression but to also keep members of our service and the public safe,” said Southampton Fire Department Chief Alfred Callahan. 

“Stony Brook Southampton Hospital asks all village residents to join us in doing their part to support the Water Authority’s efforts to conserve water by following all guidelines during this emergency,” said Southampton Hospital Vice President of Community and Government Relations Robert Ross.

“I urge residents to act prudently and take the necessary steps to help conserve water to ensure that our emergency service personnel have the resources they need to keep the community safe,” said New York State Senator Anthony Palumbo.  

“A little cooperation and change of existing habits will result in a healthy landscape and adequate water supply,” said Mike Dwyer of the Irrigation Association of New York.

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 editor@eastendbeacon.com

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