North & South Rivers Watershed Association

Managing Scituate’s Water for Droughts – Public Meeting Tuesday, January 15 at 7:00pm

With all the rain we have had recently, it is hard to remember the 2016 drought, but it is still very much in the forefront of those tasked with meeting the water needs of the Town of Scituate. On Tuesday, January 15th at 7:00pm, in the new Public Safety Building, the town will present an update on work accomplished to date to increase the town’s reservoir storage by modifying the spillway to raise the normal water level 1.5 feet. Raising normal water levels would increase the Town’s water storage by approximately 28 days, enabling the town to better weather future droughts. A critical component of the project is the town’s ability to manage water demand in the future. The project will also ensure that the reservoir dam and spillway comply with today’s dam safety standards for flood control and will restore river herring passage to the reservoir through modifications to the fish ladder and by adding water capacity for streamflow releases. Please join us for an update on the Reservoir Dam Water Storage and Fish Passage Improvement Project and learn about the policies, education, and demand management controls outlined in the town’s water conservation plan that need to be implemented for the town to be able to prepare for the next drought.

Previous Sustainable Water Management Initiatives (SWMI) state grants awarded to the Town in 2013, 2014, and 2017 provided a feasibility analysis, modeling of different dam modifications and preliminary designs to arrive at the preferred option. The current phase of the project, funded by a $227,309 grant from the state, is to move forward with final design and permitting for the project.  Scituate will be working in partnership with Tetra Tech, Inc., Corona Environmental Consultants, the North and South Rivers Watershed Association and the Massachusetts Bays Program to complete the work this spring. The Town of Scituate has been an active partner for over a decade with the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, Massachusetts Bays Program, and the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration to restore more natural streamflow, herring passage to the First Herring Brook and to conserve its drinking water resources.

Major conclusions from the work funded by previous grants include:

  • The total estimated project cost is $1.8 million dollars to raise the reservoir’s full storage elevation by 1.5 feet, improve the fish ladder and make modifications to the spillway required by the state Office of Dam Safety regulations.
  • After construction the fish ladder will have enough water to be operated effectively 97% of days in spring and 79% in fall. Currently, the fish ladder is not operational.
  • No new area surrounding the reservoir will be flooded that doesn’t already experience high water.
  • During the drought of 2016 the first month of the outdoor water ban resulted in a 6% decrease in water demand. As the town increased enforcement and publicity, water demand was reduced by 25% in August and September.
  • Even with the new storage and current average daily demands, during the drought of record (1965-1966) the town’s reservoir was modeled to run dry if the town was unable to reduce demand by 25% as they did in 2016. This underscores the critical importance of complying with outdoor water bans and year round water conservation.

To find out more about the results of this phase of the project please attend the meeting on Tuesday, January 15th at 7:00pm at the Scituate Public Safety Building, 800 Chief Justice Cushing Highway.

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