The Commission owns and maintains the 22-billion-gallon Cobble Mountain Reservoir as the primary drinking water supply for the City of Springfield and surrounding region. It is a plentiful supply for the Commission’s 250,000 customers.
The Commission manages this supply, taking into account changing weather patterns, and water usage trends, in order to uphold its mission to provide an adequate and uninterrupted water supply for the Springfield area.
The Commission maintains its own Drought Management Plan to monitor reservoir levels and determine if any water use restrictions are needed. The Water Management Act (WMA) of 1987 sets forth regulations related to the permitting of water withdrawals for water utilities across Massachusetts. Since the Commission’s water supply pre-dates the WMA, the Commission is considered a “registered” supplier. Registered suppliers maintain their own autonomy over water withdrawals and drought restrictions, except during extreme emergencies.
The Commission’s registration with the state is for 39.1 million gallons of water per day, a limit that was set in 1987. Since then, water use in the Commission’s system has been on the decline, and today the Commission averages a daily consumption of 30 million gallons. The approximately 30 million gallons per day is well within the state’s safe yield threshold and can allow the Commission to maintain reservoir capacity during drought conditions. To date, the Commission has not had to impose water use restrictions on its customers.
Updates to the Drought Management Plan
In 2020 the Commission updated its Drought Management Plan to account for weather pattern changes, and to incorporate new technology and resources. The plan is based on the Commission’s water system, historical data, and system reliability. Also factored in are a variety of potential scenarios and how the Commission’s system would react to those scenarios.
All of this data and information was compiled to create a tool to allow for analysis and up-to-date reporting. Every week, water levels at Cobble Mountain Reservoir are entered into a Drought Forecasting Tool, which was developed as part of the Drought Management Plan update. The Drought Forecasting Tool assesses factors such as reservoir levels, capacity, and system demand, and provides a drought forecast and of normal, mild, or severe, based on current reservoir capacity and system demand.
Drought Forecasting Tool
Cobble Mountain Reservoir has remined at “normal” levels, including during Summer 2020 when the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Affairs declared a significant drought state-wide.
In Summer 2020 the Drought Forecasting Tool determined reservoir capacity was “normal” by running one thousand simulations, based on water levels, entered into the tool weekly. Results of the simulations indicated there were zero scenarios in which Cobble Mountain Reservoir would reach its historic low of 30% capacity in the subsequent 90-day period.
Drought Monitoring and Water Use Restrictions
The Commission’s Water Operations division monitors drought conditions and reservoir capacity. The Commission will impose water use restrictions if ever needed. Fortunately, the expansive Cobble Mountain Reservoir has enough capacity to meet the region’s water needs, even in some periods of drought.