Rockland County declares drought warning, imposes mandatory water conservation rules


Day issues a drought warning at a press conference in Hillburn
Day issues a drought warning at a press conference in Hillburn

Rocklanders may have noticed a lack of rainfall this spring and summer. As a result of the dry conditions, mandatory water usage limits have been instated and a Stage II Water Emergency, otherwise known as a drought warning, has been declared in the county.

County Executive Ed Day and Commissioner of Health Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert made the announcement at the Torne Valley Vineyards in Hillburn Thursday, July 21 after calling for voluntary water conservation twice before.

County Executive Day explained, “Our water use has remained relatively high [and] Rainfall from March through June was 36 percent below average. We are now forced to put mandatory restrictions into place to reduce water use and preserve water to protect public health and safety.” The water saving measures apply to all residents and businesses regardless of whether their supplier or private of public.

Water storage, the Ramapo River, and the Ramapo Valley Well Field have all been significantly affected by the drought and if there is not enough stream-flow for the wells, they may shut down.

Dr. Ruppert stresses that, “If these water-saving restrictions are not followed, we may soon be forced into a Stage III water emergency, with more extreme water use restrictions. We must greatly reduce our water use…in our homes and businesses, as well as for fire protection, through the rest of the summer. The health and safety of county residents must clearly be the highest priority when supplies are limited. Your cooperation with these restrictions is vital to ensure that enough water will be available for the remainder of the summer season.”

These are the Mandatory Water Restrictions are as follows:

  • Properties with addresses ending in an odd number are instructed to water only on Mondays and Thursdays, and those with addresses ending in an even number only on Tuesdays and Fridays, between 2 – 6 a.m. for automatic, in-ground irrigation systems OR between 5 – 9 p.m. for manual sprinklers or hose fed irrigation. Watering in accordance with this two-day schedule is consistent with current best practice recommendations, and will be considered fully compliant, even though strict interpretation of Article V calls for alternate-day watering.
  • Water may not be used to wash non-public paved surfaces such as sidewalks, driveways, garages, parking areas and patios.
  • With the exception of emergency vehicles, only commercial car washes can clean automobiles, trucks or trailers.
  • Water cannot be served in restaurants unless the patron requests it.
  • The use of flow-through (non-recycled) fountains, artificial waterfalls and reflecting pools is not allowed.
  • Water cannot be used for flushing sewers or hydrants except for emergencies.
  • All water leaks must be repaired within 48 hours.
  • No bulk water supply from any source within the county may be exported outside the county.

County Executive Day also requests that water use be kept to a minimum indoors. This includes checking for low-flow of shower heads and toilets, fixing leaks, sweeping instead of washing, and only running full loads in washers and dishwashers.

There are no new lawns allowed to be installed in the county after the date of July 21, 2016. Any new lawn installed between June 21 and July 21 needs to get a variance from the county. (Residents can visit the drought information webpage listed at the end of the article).

The mandatory water saving measures follow two earlier requests for voluntary conservation. These water saving measures, which primarily affect outdoor water use, apply to all residents and businesses, regardless whether they get their water from a public water supplier such as Suez, Nyack or Suffern, or from their own private well. 

For the most up-to-date information visit RCDOH There also has been a “drought” category added on to the Rockland County Department of Health Complaint Form, allow residents to notify the Health Department of water leaks and report any observation of water being used outside the allowable schedule.

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