October 7 2020

Low Water Levels at Mill Pond Reservoir

By: Tad Stephanak

If you’ve visited the Mill Pond Conservation Area recently you noticed what seems like drastically low water levels in the Mill Pond Reservoir, a main water source for the Town of Burlington.

BNEWS spoke with DPW Director John Sanchez who noted that Mill Pond had even lower levels during the drought of 2016 and they are managing the reservoir as they routinely do. The DPW understands the demand, and what they can produce. Sanchez explained the Mill Pond facility has three intake pipes; upper, middle and lower and it has a buffer of stored water between the middle and lower intakes in case of emergency. Burlington generally doesn’t have to delve into the buffer and doesn’t expect to this year.

The reservoir typically uses the middle intake to service the town and manages the water so that by the end of the summer season the water level stays above the middle intake. Currently the water level is six feet above the middle intake which is approximately 80 million gallons.

Burlington’s daily water use is roughly 3 million gallons a day. 1½ to 2 million coming from Mill Pond and about 1 to ½ million a day from Vine Brook. The lack of rain this summer has been an issue and Sanchez is counting on seasonal rainfall. 

“If we get in the middle of October and it still hasn't been raining, then we’ll start to worry about it.”


Conservation Administrator John Keeley spoke to the environmental impact on the Mill Pond Conservation Area around the reservoir.

“The combination of drought and water withdrawals can severely impact aquatic habitat. At Mill Pond, and in rivers in Massachusetts like the Ipswich River, sections dry up completely, dooming the fish trapped there. While some predators, like herons and raccoons, enjoy easier access to prey trapped in the pools, the shallow oxygen-depleted water often results in massive fish kills. Conserving water by using less to water lawns can help reduce the stress on our water resources,” Keeley stated. 

Sanchez noted that they’ve been diligent in monitoring the town’s water supply.

“Thankfully water restrictions were put in place early this year and we’ve been tightening those restrictions as time goes by, so we've lowered the demand. If we left it the way it was there’s no way we would be able to have as much water as we have right now,” Sanchez said.   

Burlington typically puts on a water ban that lasts throughout the winter during which time the DPW can perform maintenance and repairs. 

The Board of Selectmen recently voted for a full outdoor water ban beginning Wednesday, September 30th that will last through March 31, 2021.


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