HINSDALE — Unusually dry conditions and the onslaught of summer visitors have caused the town to issue water restrictions for the first time in several years.
The restrictions, which do not affect household water usage, prohibit watering gardens or lawns, washing vehicles or other extraneous uses.
At the root of the water shortage is the town's water treatment plant, which can't keep up with the sudden increase in demand, according to Larry Turner, the town's water and sewer superintendent. The restriction should reduce usage enough to allow the plant to replenish the town's water storage tank.
"We're not critical yet, but we do need to cut down on usage until we can replace what we have in our water tank," he said.
The water tank holds 530,000 gallons of water pumped in from the Belmont Reservoir after treatment.
It is still more than half-full, he said, but "we don't want to get to a point where we don't have an ample supply left in case of an emergency. We have to be a little proactive about this."
Turner noted that low rainfall has prompted residents to do a lot more lawn watering, and farmers have been irrigating, and that the town's population just doubled when campers arrived at the summer camps located around town.
He said it doesn't happen often, although a restriction was put in place "four or five years ago."
"The dry weather coincided with the opening of the summer camps, and with all the extra people we just can't get the water through the treatment plant fast enough," Turner said.
According to Neil Stuart, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, central Berkshire County is running about 2 inches below normal for rainfall in June. For the year, the region is about 5 inches below normal.
"The normal for June is just shy of 4 inches of rainfall," Stuart said. "But this June there's only been a little over 2 inches. A lot of areas are a bit drier than normal this year."
He said showers and thunderstorms will be rolling through the area today (Tuesday), dropping at most a half-inch of rain. Another bout of rain is forecast for the weekend.
"The temperatures, on average, have been slightly cooler, aside from a few heat spikes," Stuart said. "But the lack of rainfall has been the bigger issue."
Meanwhile folks in Hinsdale are letting their lawns dry out and hoping for rain.
"If people cut down on their water usage, and we get some rain this week, we could get back to our summertime normal," Turner said. "It's not usually this dry this early in the year."