September 26, 2016

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff, 

In August, I informed you of the severe drought our area is experiencing and the need to reduce our water consumption as a result. I write to provide you with an update on the situation and the impact our collective conservation measures are having. The bottom line is that our efforts have helped. The Town of Amherst’s municipal water system—from which the College obtains its water—is currently able to meet demand. However, to ensure that the system continues to work, we will have to keep our water use to a minimum for the foreseeable future.

The latest major development in the drought, which has now been categorized as “extreme” by the U.S. Drought Monitor, is the shutdown of the Town’s primary water source, the Atkins Reservoir. Because the water level in Atkins is too low to use, town administrators activated a series of wells typically used as backups. The Town’s decision to activate that backup system was not unexpected and had been communicated to representatives of Amherst College, UMass, and Hampshire well in advance. If conservation efforts by town residents and institutions continue, the wells’ capacity should meet the community’s water needs. The fact that they are now being used as a primary water source underscores how important our continued water conservation efforts are.

The good news, as I noted above, is that the measures taken on and beyond the campus this past month are having a positive effect. Reports and subsequent repairs on campus of leaky faucets and toilets—known culprits of significant water loss—are up 250 percent. The postponement of planting Greenway lawns has saved more than 60,000 gallons per day. Limiting the irrigation of the athletics fields has saved 20,000 gallons per week. And water consumption for the Town as a whole has dropped by about half a million gallons a day. Together we are making difference, but we cannot become complacent. 

For more information about the current situation, read about state drought levels and the Town of Amherst’s response. Visit the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s drought management page and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s water conservation page for other tips and details. A new page on our own Amherst Conserves website debunks some myths circulating on campus about the situation and provides links to more information.

Thank you again for your efforts. If you have any questions or suggestions, please send them to We have asked the Town to continue to keep us informed of the situation and of the impact of our conservation measures. In turn, we will also keep you up to date.