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Drought Leads to Water Restrictions Across N.H., And Cost Impacts for Some Districts

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The current drought has prompted communities across New Hampshire to issue water use restrictions. For towns with older water systems, or less access to bodies of water, the drought can present economic and logistical problems.

All Things Considered Host Peter Biello interviewed Debbie Kardaseski, the administrator of Emerald Lake Village District in Hillsborough, about drought conditions in New Hampshire.

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Peter Biello: So how dry is it for you this year? How can you tell?

Debbie Kardaseski: We can mainly tell because the roads we have - 14 or 15 miles of dirt roads that have been horribly dusty this year. The lake has been a little bit lower than it normally is. But the biggest issue is watching the water level in our storage tank, and we have eight head, eight wells, and right now five of them are functioning. We've had three that aren't working anymore.

Biello: Given the state of your wells, you've been trucking water in from out of the district and how long you've been doing that for and what's the impact been?

Kardaseski: We have been hauling water since June 22nd and it had reached the point at one time. - they're hauling in twice a week, Monday and Thursday. They're hauling today. At one point in time we were getting probably 22 to 28 loads in a week and we're back down to maybe 13 in a week. It's not because we've had the rain, it's because we are finding leaks, because this system is old and falling apart.

Biello: And that comes at a cost. What is the cost and who's paying for it.

Kardaseski: So far we have spent $112,888.24 cents for this water, and it comes out of our water budget.

Biello: Was the town prepared to spend that much money?

Kardaseski: The district was not. We knew we'd probably have to have some hauled in because our system is overtaxed because it's old and people are not as careful about their water use as we wish they would be. And we are fraught with leaks.

Biello: So what would the district need to address this problem?

Kardaseski: About $14 million.

Biello: OK, so it seems like you've done the math on this and you know what the district needs.

Kardaseski: Ah, yeah, we had last year we had a water system, asset management plan developed. We got a matching grant from the state to get this done. And what this plan looked at was the feasibility of us connecting to either Hillsborough or Henniker water systems. And to do either one of those connections, just those connections, is anywhere between $3- and almost $5 million. But that doesn't address the problem of the leaks.

Biello: What's the short-term solution you have to look forward to that might make a dent in this problem of the new.

Kardaseski: The new well. Well, it's been drilled and we're hoping to have it online, I would say in a month. It came in at 30 to 40 gallons a minute, which is pretty sizable considering one of the wells that we are currently using is drawing six gallons per minute.

Biello: Well, that's an improvement.

Kardaseski: It certainly is. And it certainly isn't going to hurt. And if we can just stop trucking water, that's going to save us a fair amount of money, because at one point it was costing us about $8,000 a week because our entire system needs to be replaced.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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