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Water Resources – Why Rain Barrels?

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Mountain Lakes is fortunate to have an excellent water supply from artesian wells that we can feel secure about for the future. All in all, that is true. But it isn’t as true as 40 or 50 years ago. The Borough’s water source, the Buried Valleys Aquifer, now has the highest negative recharge in the state of New Jersey. A few questions are answered here by the men who manage Mountain Lakes’ water – Bill Ryden and Mark Prusina.

Bill Ryden has been the Borough Engineer since 1976 and is the Licensed Water System Operator. Ryden does the DEP required testing and reporting on a regular basis. Mark Prusina, as head of the Mountain Lakes Department of Public Works, is the Storm Water Coordinator. Prusina manages the daily operations and reports to Ryden.

Mountain Lakes draws water from the Buried Valleys Aquifer, which is considered a sole source aquifer, meaning it is our only source of potable water and impossible to replace if contaminated. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, since 1968 the Troy Brook Aquifer has shown a steady average decrease in water levels. The aquifer does recharge, but in drought circumstances the aquifer cannot recharge as much. Considering the local increase in development and population, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) advises conservation. Mountain Lakes has taken a few actions over the years and a few more are planned.

The DEP has allotted Mountain Lakes a maximum of 30 million gallons of water per month. The Borough’s responsibility is to keep below this allocation. Actual usage is reported to the DEP in the Borough’s “Watersum” Report. Mountain Lakes usage averages less than 20 million gallons per month, but the important months to look at are July and August when the dry summers cause residents to water their lawns, using much more water. In August of 2005 and 2006 Mountain Lakes passed the 30 Million gallon limit. These breaches put a moratorium on new building projects for five years and the Borough Council passed a Water Conservation Ordinance.

Since the Ordinance was instilled, the usage rate decreased by an average of 5 million gallons per month. (2008 is considered a transition year and not included in either calculation.) The highest usage since 2008 was 28 million gallons in 2012, otherwise usage hasn’t been above 26 million per month.

Passed in 2007, Mountain Lakes’ Water Conservation Ordinance limits the days that residents can use sprinkler systems to water their lawns and landscaping. Residents with even numbered homes can water on even days and those with odd numbered homes can water on odd days. These water restrictions are in place June through September every year and are enforced by Borough police. The ordinance restricts watering to between 6pm and 10am. The Borough Manager also has the power to impose additional restrictions under emergency conditions.

The Borough is pursuing other means of conserving water, some of which directly feed the Buried Valleys Aquifer. The Mountain Lakes Department of Public Works is switching out the household meters as the old meters fail to new digital meters. They are fixing leaks in the lines. They are going above and beyond basic requirements by installing rain gardens which pool rainwater, letting it filter down to the aquifer rather than run off down streams to the ocean.

The Borough is also promoting the use of rain barrels which also saves runoff when it rains and reduces peak use of municipal water in the summer to water gardens. Rain barrels also save the residents money. To participate in this year’s Rain Barrel Workshop on April 25th from 2-4 pm, sign-up at the Borough Hall by April 23rd. There are 24 barrels available at $25 each for Mountain Lakes residents only on a first come first serve basis.