A common question is: "Why are developers allowed to build new homes in Topsfield if we need to have water restrictions each summer?   The short answer is the water withdrawal permit issued to the Town by the Department of Environmental Protection attempts to balance the environmental concerns of low stream flow with the water needs of the Town.  This is done by restricting non-essential use during dry periods while allowing some growth as long as the Town uses its limited water resources efficiently.


Water restrictions implemented due to low stream flow are aimed at reducing non-essential outdoor water use, particularly lawn irrigation.   During periods of low flow, non-essential outdoor water use is reduced and the balance shifts towards environmental concerns.  The modified permit that requires the restrictions took effect during the summer of 2006.  From 2006 to 2009, our withdrawals averaged 0.47 million gallons per day (mgd) from May 1st through September 30th during this period.  In the ten years prior to 2006 we averaged 0.62 mgd. As a result of some wet summers and the water restrictions, use has dropped by approximately 25% during the summer months.


We are limited to withdrawing no more than 0.55 mgd on average from May 1st through September 30th of any given year.  The mandatory water restrictions required by low stream flow also allow us to meet this requirement.  Prior to the summer of 2004, one would have to go back as far as 1986 to find a year where water use was below 0.55 mgd during the summer months and back to the 1970's to where it was consistently below the cap.  By placing a limit on how much water can be withdrawn, this provision of the permit directly influences the growth of the Town.  The Town can do a number of things to make better use of the water we are allowed to use but there is a very well defined limit.


The difference between the summer cap (0.55 mgd) and the average of our recent summer withdrawals (0.47 mgd) is approximately the amount of water available to support new growth.  The 0.08 mgd is an increase of 15% from current levels and is quite a bit of water, more than enough to support approved projects.