A Critical Point: August 2022

Aging Infrastructure Causes Fallsburg Water Concerns

by John Conway

SOUTH FALLSBURG, August 2022 — Concerns about the possibility of water shortages this summer has led the Town of Fallsburg to ask residents to voluntarily reduce their consumption. The town issued a statement to that effect in the middle of July, but Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Sean Wall-Carty says the problem isn’t going away.

“This problem is not new,” Mr. Wall-Carty told the Sentinel, adding that it had been a concern for at least five years, but had now reached “a critical point.” “It is an ongoing issue that has never been addressed before, there has never been a conversation about it, and we decided we needed to let people know that they should be mindful of the fact there is not an unlimited supply of water.”

“Due to a significant shortfall of precipitation and excessive consumption of potable water, we are asking district residents to substantially reduce their water consumption,” the town’s statement read in part.

“To this end, we urge all residents, businesses, and stakeholders to reduce water consumption voluntarily. Please take note all operators and owners of swimming pools within the water district shall have their pools filled on or before June 20 of each summer season. Refrain from using the Town water system to water any lawn, ornamental shrubs, plants, or trees except between 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and only if watering is essential when watering would be appropriate.”

Mr. Wall-Carty noted that in the first 24 hours after the call for voluntary conservation, the town was able to add between three and four million gallons back into its system.

If consumption is not substantially reduced voluntarily, he says, the town will have no choice but to consider mandatory water use restrictions. He did not quantify the necessary reduction beyond that.

“We have an aging infrastructure that in some cases dates back to 1938,” Mr. Wall-Carty said. “There are clay pipes that leak and the losses are substantial. There are no quick solutions.”

The leaky infrastructure is the main reason, he points out, that the answer is not as simple as enacting building moratoriums or putting a stop to future development. “It is more complex than that,” he said.

Referring to Fallsburg Supervisor Kathy Rappaport, he said “the Rappaport administration” is committed to addressing the town’s water system issues in hopes of developing a “planned approach” to arrive at a permanent solution.

“In the meantime, Mr. Wall-Carty said, “we have to continue to bring attention to the fact that there is a problem.”