Farmington Valley Residents: Don't Ask Us To Quench UConn's Thirst

Farmington Valley Protests UConn Water Proposal
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Farmington Valley Protests UConn Water Proposal

The University of Connecticut needs more water – but many Connecticut residents are doing their best to make sure that the water doesn’t come from the Farmington River. They made their voices heard at a public hearing earlier this week.

UConn has always struggled to keep up with the water demands of its huge population. A few years ago, the nearby Fenton River was actually pumped dry when students returned to campus in the fall and demand skyrocketed. Since then UConn has gotten serious about conserving water. But it still doesn’t have enough.

“For a period of time every spring, summer and fall – longer during dry years – all that’s available to UConn is under 2 million gallons per day," says David Murphy, of the environmental consulting firm Milone and MacBroom.

The firm, based in Cheshire, is helping UConn look at how it can increase its water supply to keep up with its ambitious plans for expansion that include a new university technology park in Storrs. One option is to divert some water from the existing system in East Hartford, managed by the Metropolitan District Commission, or MDC. The MDC draws water from reservoirs that tap into the Farmington River. And that’s created a lot of controversy among local residents, including David Blume, of Simsbury.

“We are only beginning to see the effects of climate change…and the changes to come will probably be even greater. We need to look ahead and plan for water usage in all parts of the state," Simsbury said at a public hearing in Farmington.

Blume said the Farmington River has already had low flows in recent years because of droughts. But the MDC insists it has access to plenty of extra water from the reservoirs and wouldn’t actually have to take any more out of the Farmington River. Residents aren’t buying it. Donald Rieger sits on Simsbury’s Conservation Commission.

To an audience of more than 80 in Farmington, he gave this suggestion, which was followed by a round of applause: If the MDC has extra water to give to UConn, “why not instead return it to the river, in those seasons when the river needs the water?”

The MDC proposal is just one of three that UConn is considering to get 2 million extra gallons of water per day. The other two would tap into reservoirs in Stafford and near Windham. But the MDC proposal is the most controversial.