Officials: Draft POCD’s SoNo water shortage is ‘completely false’

The South Norwalk reservoir, in September. (Paul Cantor)

NORWALK, Conn. – An alarming passage in the newly drafted Norwalk city-wide master plan is totally wrong, Second Taxing District Commission Chairperson David Westmoreland said Saturday.

The plan, which is in the beginning stages of the approval process, states that the South Norwalk Electric and Water company “projects the need for more water supply after 2021,” and may need to build a new reservoir. Westmoreland said Saturday that the passage offering this information is “completely false.”

Former Conservation Commissioner Bill Nightingale noted the passage Tuesday at the Planning Commission’s public hearing on the master plan, also known as the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).

“It turns out South Norwalk Electric and Water, Second Taxing District, has a (drinking water) problem,” Nightingale said, reading from the plan’s page 200, which says:

“The South Norwalk water utility currently depends entirely on three surface water reservoirs it owns in Wilton. The system also owns properties in Norwalk, Wilton, and New Canaan for its reservoir systems. The system currently meets maximum month average-day and peak-day demands with a sufficient margin of safety. However, the margin of safety is below preferred levels. Back-up sources of surface water are currently available. South Norwalk Water projects the need for more water supply after 2021. Potential future supply sources include the following: construction of a new reservoir; diversion of surface water (flood skimming); dam modifications; use of existing interconnections with other water supply providers. Consequences of these options include the need for permits to use existing interconnections for active, daily use, resulting in a more expensive per-unit cost of water. Diversion of surface water would likely have a limited impact on increasing safe yield. Dam modifications would be expensive but could provide a small increment of additional supply. Creation of a new reservoir would require substantial study and permitting effort due to potential instream flow concerns.

“The most recent Water Supply Plan was approved in 2007.”


“How are we going to construct a new reservoir?” Nightingale asked. “How much is that going to cost? I mean they are talking about us running out of water in South Norwalk in 2021. That’s in three years and we are going to need a new reservoir and we want to have all this new development?”

“All of the information regarding our water situation is incorrect,” Westmoreland wrote Saturday. “We filed a new water plan in 2016 and just had it updated in 2018.”

“South Norwalk Electric and Water (SNEW) maintains four active impoundment reservoirs and seven available interconnections with First Taxing District Water Department and Aquarion Water Company,” SNEW Director of Water Operations Alan Huth wrote Saturday. “The state-of-the-art SNEW filtration plant, completed in 2008 is certified with the Connecticut Department of Public health as having a maximum daily production of 10 Million Gallons per Day (MGD).”

Consulting firm Stantec has assisted Norwalk’s Planning and Zoning Department in developing the master plan. The state mandates that every Connecticut municipality come up with a new master plan every 10 years.

Westmoreland wrote to Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin, Mayor Harry Rilling and other Norwalk officials Saturday to object to the above passage in the POCD, accessible through Stantec’s draft-review-website by going to Part IV, City Systems and scrolling to page 200.

“We do not know who wrote this or how they came to this conclusion on their own, other than to speculate that they reviewed and made their own conclusions based on the outdated 2007 Water Supply Plan, which is also referenced in the draft POCD,” Westmoreland wrote. “We updated our Water Supply Plan in 2016, and this past year (2018), engaged Tighe & Bond to review our assumptions in that plan.  Based on the 2018 study, we currently have sufficient water supplies to meet projected demand for the next 20 years.”

Westmoreland on Friday wrote to NancyOnNorwalk:

“Both our water and electric demand has been flat over the past number of years, which we attribute to the widespread adoption of energy saving appliances. Dishwashers and washing machines use 1/3 of the water that they used just ten years ago.  Toilets and showers all have flow restricting devices.  Similar situation on the electric side with LED lighting and energy star appliances.  We have not seen any significant increase in demand.  For instance, while the new Washington Village will have twice the units, because they will be so much more efficient than the old buildings, we expect no increase in water or electric demand.

“On the water side, we’ve been working hard to identify and repair leaks in the system and have significantly reduced our unaccounted for water by 50% in the past year.  Additionally, we funded a study last year to identify additional sources of water supply, whether it be wells, a new reservoir, or better management of what we have, last year.  While we are planning for the future, there is no imminent crisis as Mr. Nightingale has suggested, our reservoirs are currently full, and we have a state of the art water treatment plant provide high quality, clean water tour constituents.”


“SNEW is planning into the future to secure additional sources of supply,” Huth wrote Saturday. “These sources can come from contractual agreements with other water companies, improvements to our existing reservoirs or to develop a new reservoir on land already owned by SNEW. South Norwalk Electric and Water is currently able to meet projected Average Daily Demand (ADD), Maximum Month Demand (MMD) and Peak Day Demand (PDD) for the next 20 years based on a 2018 study conducted by Tighe & Bond Engineering.”

Westmoreland wrote to Kleppin:

“The Second Taxing District continues to make significant investments in improving our water infrastructure, including seven interconnections with First Taxing District Water and Aquarion Water Company for additional emergency supplies when needed, and a state-of-the-art water filtration plant completed in 2008, at a cost of over $32M, produces some of the best quality drinking water available. These are only a few of the many improvements we have made over the past few years.  Additionally, the Second Taxing District Commission approved $100k last year to study the development of additional water supplies, potentially including the construction of a new reservoir on property we already own, if ever needed.

“While less is mentioned in the draft POCD regarding electric, we installed a brand new power substation a couple of years ago, at a cost of over $14M, that is highly reliable, and has significant additional capacity capability if ever needed.  SNEW Electric customers enjoy some of the lowest electric rates in New England, which in 2018, were approximately 21% less than Eversource customers.  As we pool our electric energy purchase requirements with six other municipal electric operators, we are able to more easily meet Connecticut’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requirements for supplying electricity from renewable resources and have no concerns regarding meeting these goals, which is an item of concern highlighted in the draft POCD.”

2019 01 26 Water Supply Memo


alan January 28, 2019 at 9:46 am

You never have a water shortage, until you have one. Chances are that Norwalk, and all of Connecticut, will have a massive water shortage in the future. Plan ahead…but with Eversource now owning Aquarion you can plan on one thing only…rates will go up and there will be little in the way of meaningful planning and expansion of capacity.
Eversouce cares about their management and investorss first…end users last,if at all.

Piberman January 28, 2019 at 10:04 am

Under Mayor Rilling’s terms the City’s population has increased substantially with an inflow of renters now making up 40% of the City’s population up from 30%. That it and of itself ought give some impetus to studying water supply. As are the large new water demands from our new Mall. Besides water supply there is a “water quality” issue as often is the case in CT cities. Many residents use water filters.

Rather than denying there’s a problem isn’t the burden on City goivernment to secure expect opinion from outside water consultants ? We spent monies to study the weeks on Manresa Island.

Debora Goldstein January 28, 2019 at 3:01 pm

I am more concerned about relying on the POCD for the next ten years, given the level of inaccuracy, of which this is just one example.

– SNEW water levels
– not using up to date demographics/using ten year old census statistics
– failure to include state-mandated information for a community bordering the LI Sound

Given the failure to adhere to the project schedule, we are now in a situation where the project fees have been completely consumed and everyone getting the first look at the finished product, without any ability to have substantial changes made. Disappointing.

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