Following several months of abnormally dry conditions, the state Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs has declared a Level 1 - Mild Drought for the Connecticut River Valley Region as of October 1, 2019. The State is recommending that all communities within the affected region take the following actions to reduce water use and help minimize the impacts of a potential long-term drought:
Minimize overall water use;
Reduce outdoor watering to no more than one day per week and before 9:00am or after 5:00pm; and
Limit watering with a handheld hose to before 9:00am and after 5:00pm.
The Town encourages residents to follow these state recommendations, but is not issuing any type of water use restriction at this time. The Town is continuously monitoring the water supply status, and if at any point data indicates the supply is becoming stressed restrictions may be issued. For more information on this declaration, click here to go to the state Drought Management Task Force webpage. We will be updating this webpage as changes in drought conditions warrant.
This webpage presents data on the status of Amherst's water supply including operating parameters for the wells and reservoirs, water levels at Atkins Reservoir, monthly water use, and precipitation data. Amherst obtains its water from nine sources, including four reservoirs and five groundwater wells. The reservoirs include Atkins Reservoir and the Pelham Reservoir System (Hill, Hawley & Intake Reservoirs). All five of the groundwater wells are located in the Lawrence Swamp Aquifer in the Hop Brook Basin in the Connecticut River Watershed. The table below shows which water sources were used in September 2019, and the approximate percentage of the total water production each is providing.
September Operating Parameters
% of Total Production
Pelham Reservoir System
Atkins Reservoir Levels
The Atkins Reservoir was one of the first surface water supplies developed for the Town in the 1930s. It has a watershed area of 5.7 square miles, a surface area of 51 acres, and a storage capacity of 200 million gallons. The chart below presents water levels at Atkins Reservoir for 2019 compared to the last three years (2016, 2017 & 2018) and the 15-yr average.
The chart below presents Amherst's average daily water use by month. For many communities water consumption is highest during the summer months, however, in Amherst, due to the student population, the months of April, September, and October have historically had the highest water demand. (data for October 2019 is average through October 17th)
The chart below presents precipitation data for 2019 compared to data from the last three years (2018, 2017 & 2016) and to the 10-yr average. Data is presented as the average daily rainfall per month (data for October 2019 is average through October 18th).
State Drought Management Task Force
The State Drought Management Task Force (SDMTF) is a group of officials from state and federal agencies and professional organizations that collect and assess data to determine severity of drought conditions in Massachusetts. The status of water supplies across the state can be found at the SDMTF website, click to see statewide drought information.
Water Use Restrictions & Conservation
Currently there are no water use restrictions in effect in Amherst. Interim mandatory water use restrictions were most recently inacted in 2016 during drought conditions. Although a number of cities and towns in Massachusetts have outdoor water use restrictions in place during summer months, Amherst is not required under their Water Management Act permit to continuously have restrictions in place. It is only under drought conditions, as determined by the MA Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs, that Amherst needs to consider restricting water use.
Although there is no water use restriction currently in place, the Town encourages all its water customers to be mindful regarding water use, address leaks as soon as possible, think carefully about what you plant, and water plants in the evening to minimize evaporation. Please click on "tips to save water" below to find out what else you can do to help conserve water.