SCWA Pumps Record Amount of Water Amid July Heat Wave

Sprinklers are likely to blame for the uptick in water usage on the East End, the Suffolk County Water Authority said. Independent/Taylor K. Vecsey

At the start of a hot and humid day Monday, the Suffolk County Water Authority customers used more water than ever.

The water authority, which serves 1.2 million county residents, reported it hit its all-time high water pumping figure — 545,726 gallons per minute — across its service territory at 5:35 a.m. Monday’s usage broke an earlier record of 542,610 gallons per minute set in July of 2016.

Joe Pokorny, the head of operations, said by phone Monday that it was not a surprise based on the increased usage in recent weeks, especially on the East End. “I think that we have seen that the forks have experienced a higher than normal increase in water consumption,” he said.

In fact, in the Town of Southold water usage in June was up by 35 percent from last year. On the South Fork, usage is up 30 percent. Southampton Village residents, in particular, were using more water than ever.

Water authority officials have been watching “the water demand go up day by day as the weather builds and the temperatures go up,” he said. They alerted customers on the East End by email and in recorded phone messages that it was experiencing an unprecedented demand and urging them to reduce water usage.

“This incredible demand is primarily due to lawn watering,” the alert said. Customers were asked to change the settings on their irrigation systems so that they follow an odd/even schedule and that they refrain from operating the sprinklers between 3 and 7 a.m. to ensure that there is enough water to address emergencies.

“People seem to be surprised that 3 to 7 is peak demand,” Pokorny said. Irrigation timers often suggest the early morning hours, and most people want to run their sprinklers when they wouldn’t be outside, he said.
Late on Sunday nights and Mondays always tend to bring the most water usage, he continued. “People tend not to water on Sunday,” as they are having barbecues and whatnot. “But on Sunday night/Monday morning everybody’s got them on,” he said.
But why the higher usage this July on the East End? “I think we would be guessing as to what it is,” he said, adding that anecdotally it seems there are more people here during the week because of the novel coronavirus where they would usually be back in the city. “I have a feeling that’s what’s really going on — 24-7 occupancy where it was just on the weekends.”

“We need cooperation from our customers to make sure that firefighters have sufficient water pressure to battle fires and that hospitals have sufficient water pressure to take care of patients,” SCWA Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Szabo said in a statement. “We need people to get this message loud and clear — change your watering habits today and help to ensure there is a sufficient water supply for everyone.”

For more ideas about how to conserve water, customers are urged to go to

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