DORSET >> A worsening drought has forced Dorset Fire District officials to turn off the district water supply between midnight and 6 a.m. and issue a boil order, effective at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 12.
"All water for drinking, ice making, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food preparation should be brought to a rolling boil for one minute before it is used, until further notice," the Dorset Fire District announced in a press release.
The boil order comes because fluctuations in water pressure in the mains and pipes caused by the shutoff raise the possibility of bacteria and water-borne pathogens entering the system. The fire district's water supply is treated with chlorine, but state regulations require the boil order as an additional layer of safety, according to fire district water operator Jim McGinnis.
The order affects about 200 connections in the Dorset Village area, McGinnis said.
Regular service will not resume until the reservoir returns to a safe level.
The fire district hopes the added restrictions will allow the springs feeding the town water supply to keep up with daily use. In the meantime, what's really needed is rain, as rainfall in the area is about 8 1/4 inches short of normal, McGinnis said.
Dorset put water restrictions in place on Sept. 18, when the water level in the 11-foot-deep reservoir was about 9 1/2 feet, McGinnis said. But the water level in the town reservoir has continued to fall due to the lack of rain. As of Monday, Oct. 10, the reservoir had fallen to a dangerously low level.
"Right now there's about 5 feet of water in the reservoir," McGinnis said.
Meanwhile, the fire district is working to detect and repair leaks in the system. So far, Matchpoint Water Asset Management, the town's consultant, has found a total of eight leaks in water mains, which are the responsibility of the district, and in service lines, which are the responsibility of property owners.
Last year, a boil order forced by similar circumstances lasted from mid-August to the end of September, McGinnis said.
"We need three days over a week of good soaking rain," McGinnis said. "Right now that isn't in the forecast for the next two weeks."
"If Hurricane Matthew came this way in a week we'd have a full reservoir. But that's rather dramatic and we can't expect that," he added.
Water system users can visit the district's website, www.DorsetFireDistrict.org for status changes on water restrictions.