WAC’s chair warns of consequences of irrigation ban

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Water Advisory Council Chairman John Hallman (the sign notwithstanding) warned at Monday’s meeting that those arguing against a ban on irrigation systems could, years from now, be plagued by no drinkable water.

“Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”

If not today or tomorrow, but perhaps 30 years from now, that ancient verse could be the plight for Shelter Islanders in the most sensitive areas to the south along the coastline, according to John Hallman, chairman of the town’s Water Advisory Council.

Those most opposed to implementing a ban on automatic underground irrigation system, Mr. Hallman said at Monday night’s WAC meeting, are the ones who would be most affected by a drought down the road, with no potable water in their wells.

“The people bitching the most are those who can least afford to do so,” he said, referring to speakers who argued their green lawns were vital to maintaining the ambiance on Shelter Island.

All test wells on Shelter Island showed a drop in capacity for August “which is normal for the end of the summer,” Mr. Hallman said. He speculated that September numbers might show a further drop.

Any area with well reading of less that 2 feet shouldn’t be allowed to do any irrigation, Mr. Hallman said.

“Thank God these numbers are August and not May or June,” Mr. Hallman said about the latest test well readings. “Hopefully we’ll get some rain” in October and November, he said.

He will be joining fellow WAC member Walter Richards and six others on a newly appointed town Irrigation Committee that begins meetings Thursday night. The committee is likely to continue its meetings at least through December, according to Supervisor Jim s, who serves as liaison to the WAC.

In July, the Town Board approved a moratorium on the irrigation ban that was originally slated to go into effect September 1. When the Town Board approved the moratorium, Mr. Dougherty said it could be nine months before a decision is reached about whether or not to implement the ban.

The committee will be working with a consultant to explore issues such as whether irrigation technology has improved since the ban was first proposed in 2003. At that time, residents were banned from installing new irrigation systems, but those who already had them were allowed to continue their use for 10 years.