Fairfield's water restrictions will become mandatory in 2022

Michael Mottolese, of New Canaan, tries out a new fishing spot on the Mill River in Fairfield on Sunday, March 21, 2021.

Michael Mottolese, of New Canaan, tries out a new fishing spot on the Mill River in Fairfield on Sunday, March 21, 2021.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — The town of Fairfield will be the next Connecticut municipality to participate in the Aquarion Water Company’s mandatory water restrictions.

In an effort to increase water conservation and water efficiency, Fairfield’s voluntary position in the twice-weekly sprinkler irrigation system will move to mandatory in 2022.

Peter Fazekas, director of corporate communications for Aquarion, said the goal of the program is not to stop people from irrigating but instead have customers use water more efficiently.

“There’s a lot of water waste, especially from customers that run their irrigation in the middle of the day when upwards of 50 percent of that water is evaporating,” Fazekas said.

While the number of households voluntarily participating in the program in Fairfield is unknown, Fazekas believes the percentage of outside use is much lower compared to last year due to the amount of rainfall this year and the fact that there was a drought last year.

Fazekas said that when the first original towns — Greenwich, Stamford, Darien and New Canaan — became part of the water restriction program in 2017, there was certainly a learning curve. One that may happen in Fairfield as well.

“It’s definitely an educational process especially in Connecticut where customers are used to using as much water as they feel they need,” Fazekas said. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

When Aquarion first launched the program four years ago, they met with representatives from all four aforementioned towns, officials from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, as well as several other leaders.

They decided that water restrictions would be the easiest way to impact conservation. However, this time around Fazekas believes that as the program has spread to Westport and Newtown in 2019 and East Granby, Granby and Simsbury in 2021, residents have become more aware of water conservation.

“We had a drought in 2016 where we had 45 days left of water available in the Greenwich system,” Fazekas said. “We put in temporary water mains along the Merritt Parkway to be able to move more water to Stamford and Greenwich. I think that was eye opening for a number of people.”

“Not only the droughts that are experienced here in the Northeast, but obviously everybody is watching the news and there’s a lot of serious drought issues in different parts of the country,” he added. “We’re fortunate to have an abundant supply, but we need to use it wisely.”

Despite the use of water for outside use becoming restricted in Fairfield next year, Aquarion offers four variance programs for customers in towns participating in irrigation conservation. The four variances include ones for a new planting, a large property and a golf course, along with a high-efficiency variance.

Mary Hogue, a member of the Mill River Wetland Committee, agrees that water conservation is important and necessary when dealing with the finite resource.

“We’re a water happy state so it doesn’t seem like it’s important,” Hogue said. “We seem to have a lot of water, but water is a single resource for the planet. If you look at other parts of the planet, it’s a very dire circumstance in many other areas including our own country.

Water in Connecticut has been a topic of much debate recently with the recent plan to divert nearly double the allowed gallons a day to southwestern Connecticut.

The project is part of Aquarion’s long-range plan to meet water needs in southwestern Fairfield County. If approved, it would divert up to 14.2 million gallons a day from the Greater Bridgeport System to the Southwest Regional Pipeline. The current allowed amount is 7.26 million gallons a day.

Some people have objected to the proposal, saying they were concerned the diversion would negatively impact residents and the watershed, especially along the Mill River and Cricker Brook. They urged the state to reduce the amount of water allowed and shorten the 25-year permit duration, giving more chance for review as time went on to determine the impacts and need.