The Town of Amherst is not issuing mandatory water use restrictions at this time. The Amherst Water Department is continuously monitoring the Town’s water supply, which is currently at a normal level for this time of year due to reduced demand over the spring months from the University, Colleges, and businesses closing due to COVID-19. We will provide updates of the drought situation here, including any announcements of water use restrictions. Stay tuned!
As always, we encourage our residents and businesses to conserve water. In addition, the dry conditions have increased the risk of woodland fires. The Town wants to remind residents to exercise caution when using charcoal grills, fire pits, or any other outdoor burning.
On June 26th, the State declared a Level 2 - Significant Drought in the Connecticut River Valley Region. Low precipitation in May and June, and recent above normal temperatures, have led to low groundwater and streamflow levels in some areas of the state and an increased threat of brush fires. The Level 2 drought designation will remain in effect until the state Drought Management Task Force determines that groundwater and stream flow levels have returned to normal in the affected regions. The status of water supplies across the state can be found at the Drought Management Task Force website, click to see statewide drought information.
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 June 2020, and the approximate percentage of the total water production each is providing.
April 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 2020 compared to the last four years (2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019) 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.
The chart below presents precipitation data for 2020 compared to data from the last four years (2019, 2018, 2017 & 2016) and to the 10-yr average. Data is presented as the average daily rainfall per month.
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.