Lake Cochichewick

Lake Cochichewick is North Andover’s water supply. Despite rampant growth the town’s water supply should be in good shape for years to come, according to an engineering report.

NORTH ANDOVER — Along with all its other impacts, the pandemic has increased the amount of water that homeowners use.

That seems to be the case in North Andover at least, where a report on the town’s water supply was released last week.

“Between 2019 and 2020 the Town saw a 25 percent increase in residential usage,” the report concluded. “While the increase is likely attributed to the pandemic, it is difficult to predict whether this increase will continue to be seen in the future.”

The report was commissioned last August to determine the impact of population growth and new development on North Andover’s available water, all of which comes from Lake Cochichewick.

Concern about the supply was expressed in a proposed moratorium on development that was defeated at Town Meeting in 2021, and has also been voiced at meetings of the Planning Board when new building projects have been discussed.

“It’s all pointing back to significant growth in the last several years, and people had concerns, one of which was the lake’s capacity to handle the demand,” said Jean Enright, director of planning for North Andover.

The report was conducted by Weston and Sampson, an engineering and environmental services firm in Reading, which found that North Andover stayed within state-defined limits for water usage between 2012 and 2020, even with the latter year’s large increase.

The report also shared projections from the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which found that if historic trends continue, the town should remain within usage limits at least until 2034.

Weston and Sampson then determined that, assuming a population growth of 6 percent and a household growth rate of 16 percent, North Andover should still remain compliant with state limits on water withdrawals at least until 2035.

“I didn’t anticipate that we had a capacity issue in the near future,” Enright said.

The only concern expressed in the report was that, if there is a repeat of North Andover’s remarkable demand for water in 2020, the usage stemming from new growth could become a problem.

Weston and Sampson’s estimates for new residential and commercial demand looked at projects that are currently being built or were recently completed, but also at one that is still only being proposed, at Royal Crest Estates. They figured the demand for water created by all these projects is the equivalent of 4 percent of the residential and commercial usage in 2020.

While the report suggests that this anomalous year was a consequence of the pandemic, it also considers the impact of drought, which had measurable impacts on residential water usage in 2016 and 2020.

Among a range of recommendations, the report therefore suggests ways to anticipate impacts from drought, while also recommending a review of water usage in people’s homes “to understand the potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic relating to shifts across water demand categories.”

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