Protecting water resources includes assessment

By Kathryn Gallerani

CARVER – Adaptations to protect the town’s firefighting water resources and help cranberry growers and other farmers address vulnerability to drought are being explored with help from consulting water resource engineers.

Last year, Carver received $196,979 for a climate change water resource vulnerability and adaptation strategy assessment as part of the second phase of the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant and designation program. Carver received $15,000 the first year.

Water resources engineers Diane Mas and Phil Moreschi of consultants Fuss and O’Neill recently presented the findings from the MVP grant study overseen by the town’s planning and permitting office to the Select Board. They focused on the two priority areas.

Fire Chief Craig Weston worked with the consultants on a means to assess firefighting water supply sources in town, including helping to identify 15 priority firefighting water supplies out of 150 used for firefighting.

According to Mas, a field assessment was also conducted of the 15 priority supplies to gather information on field conditions and along with a review of maps, data and other sources develop a vulnerability assessment as to which of the water supplies are most vulnerable to drought.

Among the factors to consider are location relative to structures and whether it’s publicly or privately owned and if there were any permitting challenges. A ranking of water supplies followed.

“It’s a very transparent and logical way to prioritize, so if you are asked the question, why are you doing an improvement here, you have a methodology that this is why this was to expend resources to make an improvement,” she said.

She said options going forward include taking measures to increase capacity, increase storage and maintain higher water levels as well as looking for opportunities to engage with the farming community to serve dual purposes for firefighting and agriculture.

She said the town’s invasive species task force could be a partner in terms of increasing volume or capacity by clearing vegetation and adding planting for habitat benefits.

As for agricultural water supplies, Mas said they worked with cranberry growers in Carver and Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association Executive Director Brian Wick and visited half a dozen cranberry sites to understand how farmers manage their water supplies.

They also worked together to develop and distribute a cranberry field use survey to get a handle on the challenges growers face, how they were impacted by the 2016 drought and what should be done differently.

From there, Fuss and O’Neill identified management alternatives including dredging to remove sediment to increase capacity and intercepting groundwater such as through the insulation of wells and increasing control options to move the water around their farms.

“Nobody knows better than these growers how to move water around their farms, and a lot of these suggestions that we made may look very obvious to our cranberry growers who are familiar with the industry, but we felt a real need to lay out the whole range of possibilities because that will be important for folks who are on the outside looking in, including funding agencies,” she said.

Other options include exploring opportunities to increase water conservation or water reuse on farms where cranberries are grown, water sharing among growers, and in the most extreme cases converting bogs. She said individual growers will decide whether to pursue any of these resiliency measures.

An integrated management plan has been created for both the firefighting and agricultural water supplies. It combines the findings of the two different assessments and provides both site specific recommendations and town-wide recommendations.

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