The ongoing drought has forced the operators of the municipal water system in Dorset to halt service between midnight and 6 a.m. until further notice. In addition, all customers in the Bennington County town are under a boil water order.
"Due to continued lack of rainfall, water in the system’s reservoir has fallen to dangerously low levels," a notice to customers states. "It is now necessary to turn off the water supply between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. on a nightly basis. Shutting off the water each night will hopefully allow the springs to keep up with daily usage."
The notice says nightly shut-offs "will continue until the water level in the reservoir returns to a safe level."
The 201 customers on the system are instructed to boil, for at least one minute, water used for for drinking, ice making, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation.
"Due to nightly shut-offs, the water system will be experiencing fluctuations in water pressure. Therefore, the possibility exists for bacteria and other harmful organisms to enter the water distribution system," the notice states. "People with severely compromised immune systems, infants and some elderly may be at increased risk."
Ben Weiss is the chairman of the Prudential Committee of the Dorset Fire District, which runs the water system. He says the district's 11-foot deep spring-fed reservoir is down about six feet.
"It's fallen dramatically in the last couple of days," he says. "So we felt it's necessary to have this nightly shut-off of water so that we give the opportunity for the springs to regenerate and hopefully fill back to the level that it's at and not continue to fall."
Compounding the problem, Weiss says, are eight identified leaks in the system. He says the nightly shut-offs will help conserve water and also keep water from leaking out until those issues can be addressed.