TOWN OF STERLING/VILLAGE OF FAIR HAVEN
PUBLIC WATER SYSTEM
Where does our public water come from? Two wells located just east of the Village of Fair Haven (in the Town of Sterling) supply public water to properties in the Village of Fair Haven and parts of the Town of Sterling.
Federal and State grant funding recently enabled extension of public water service into the rural township. Concerns about well water—both its safety and the reliability of supply—put the Town of Sterling’s public water projects on a priority list for grant funding.
Town of Sterling Water District #3 purchases water from the Village wells. About 75 properties in Town of Sterling Water District 1 are served by the Onondaga County Water Authority’s water lines along Route 104. The Town plans to drill a new well to supply Water District #2. The planned location of this well is adjacent to (some say in-between) the existing Village wells, and it will be a third well tapping into the aquifer that supplies public water in Fair Haven and Sterling.
The NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will require the Town to apply for a permit to dig the third well. Pump tests are planned in the late summer/early fall of 2021 in order to gather data on aquifer capacity necessary for permit application. The Village of Fair Haven requested the Town of Sterling to place a moratorium on new Special Use Permits for Commercial Water Extraction pending results of the pump tests. See "Get Involved" for the latest status of this moratorium.
Can the Village wells be sucked dry? In a February 2021 Zoom meeting with the Village of Fair Haven, Hydrogeologist Steve Winkley of the NY Rural Water Association stated that we have a relatively small aquifer that already has two straws in it (the existing two wells). Now we are putting in a third well. The more straws, the more potential drawdown. There is relatively little data on our public aquifer. Winkley's presentation, here, provides an overview of the scarce data.
What is the recharge area surrounding the Village wells? The total recharge area is the 1 mile radius surrounding the public wells, according to a recent analysis by Sterling Water Stewards' consulting hydrogeologists. Click to see the Map of Fair Haven Recharge Area. A recharge area is where water is able to seep into the ground and refill the aquifer. This area needs to be protected to ensure water supply and water quality.
How are withdrawals from the Village wells regulated? The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) requires facilities that have the capacity to withdraw more than 100,000 gallons per day (gpd) to apply for a water withdrawal permit. The pumps for Village wells 1 and 2 have a combined pumping capacity of approximately 835,200 gpd (580 gallons per minute, although expert sources have indicated that the data that this capacity is based on is sketchy). The Village of Fair Haven is permitted a maximum withdrawal of 750 gpm by their NYSDEC water withdrawal permit. Maximum withdrawal limits are designed to prevent drawdown of aquifers.
How close are we to the limit of our current water system? Using data from a 2017 engineering report prepared for the Town of Sterling, the Village System prior to expansion pumped a peak flow of 367 gpm. Water District #3 added 43 gpm and has the potential to add 12 gpm more (if vacant lots are developed. Projected flow from the recently approved Water District #2 is not known. The Town plans to build a new well in the municipal aquifer to supply Sterling Water District #2.
What if another user tapped into the recharge area surrounding our aquifer? If we assume that the DEC limit of 750 gpm for our wells is designed to prevent drawdown, there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room for further drawdown from other wells in the recharge area. In the summer of 2020, a developer, William Huntress of Buffalo, announced plans to extract water on land he owns across the road from the Village wells, and to build a commercial water bottling plant. Huntress' land is well within the 1-mile recharge area of the municipal aquifers.
How vulnerable is our municipal water supply to contamination? According to our water bill, we have an aquifer of “high hydraulic connectivity.” Hydraulic connectivity is a measure of the porosity of the soils—the surface soils are very permeable. So our aquifer is vulnerable to groundwater contamination.