09232020 Whitewater Reservoir

The Whitewater Reservoir, a watershed crossing Claremont and Cornish, sources 100% of the city’s drinking water. Claremont officials have called for a voluntary water-use restriction in light of drought conditions throughout New England.

CLAREMONT — Amid a statewide drought, Claremont’s public water supply remains in relatively good standing, though city officials want residents to remain conscientious of their water usage.

Last week the city announced voluntary water consumption reductions due to continuing drought concerns occurring across New England. While the public notice uses the word “restrictions,” City Manager Ed Morris said the participation is only voluntary at this time.

“We wanted residents to hopefully be mindful, if anything,” Morris told the Eagle Times on Monday. “The reservoirs are a little low but not down to a point of concern.”

Many New Hampshire communities — including Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem — have imposed mandatory water-use restrictions for its residents, though Morris said that the city’s conditions have not reached that level of severity yet.

“Currently the city has an adequate amount of storage,” the city notice states. “However, the water department is trying to be proactive due to the ongoing drought conditions, lower than normal water levels, and projected dry forecast.”

The city recommendations to conserve water include: not leaving faucets running while brushing teeth or rinsing dishes; only running full loads in washing machines and dishwashers; limit outdoor hose use to minimum necessities; identify and repair water leaks or broken valves; and taking showers instead of baths.

A full list of recommendations can be viewed on the city website at www.claremontnh.com.

The city’s public water supply comes from an interconnected system of three reservoirs. The primary reservoir, the Whitewater Reservoir, is located in a 4.3 square mile forest, which drains its rainfall into Whitewater Brook. This watershed holds up to 140 million gallons of water, and feeds water to two smaller reservoirs in Claremont. The Rice Reservoir near Route 120 stores up to 40 million gallons of water and another reservoir alongside the treatment plant on Plains Road holds another 40 million gallons. The distribution center can hold an additional 4 million gallons.

The Rice Reservoir is primarily the city’s backup reservoir, Morris said. This reservoir receives additional water from an underground spring.

Assistant Public Works Director Jeremy Clay said the city hopes that with community conservation participation, the city can rely mainly on the spring-fed supply and allow the reservoirs fed from surface sources to replenish.

Under severe shortage conditions, the city can draw water from the Sugar River, though the city tries to avoid that option, Clay said. The process to remove sediments from the river water is a time-consuming process and requires more resources to treat.

Morris said the city has not had to draw from the Sugar River for at least a couple of years.

The last time the city used the Sugar River for water was due to a clogged intake pipe in the reservoir system, not because of drought, Morris said.

“We used to have to pump from the Sugar River quite often,” Morris said. “We had the water in our reservoirs but we couldn’t draw what we needed.”

The Public Works Department has since cleaned the intake pipe, which has increased flow into the treatment facility.

The current drought follows one of the hottest summers in New Hampshire on record and lower than average precipitation this year, said Brandon Kernen of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.

“Right now New Hampshire is in a moderate drought,” Kernen told the Eagle Times. “But we could be seeing the severe drought that Maine is reporting in a week or two if we don’t start getting precipitation soon.”

Though western New Hampshire is in comparatively better condition than the rest of New Hampshire, Sullivan county has recorded notable shortages in rainfall. The county recorded only 17.8 inches of rain over the last six months, which is 5.7 inches less than the average and 2.2 inches over the last 30 days, which is 1.7 inches less than the county average, Kernen said.

“There’s no telling when this drought will end,” Kernen said “We could get tropical rain storms that replenish the levels quickly or we could stay dry all winter, which will not end well if that happens.”

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