Life has been different around Boston for weeks during the coronavirus pandemic, and you can see one way it's changed entire communities in an essential resource: the water supply.
Water use has dropped nearly 6% across the region during the past eight weeks, during the governor's stay-at-home order, according to figures compiled this week by the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority and cited by the city of Newton. The supplier compared use from March 18 to May 6 against averages from the previous three years.
Non-essential businesses have been shuttered and Boston and Waltham, both home to large commercial districts, experienced heavy drop-offs of 13.7% and 13.1%, respectively. Milton and Nahant have also used significantly less water in their areas, with Nahant down 9.1% from an average year.
But not every community has faced a plunge in water usage. More residential areas like Stoneham, Swampscott and Winthrop have all seen double-digit percentage gains in their usage as people stay home from work and school, with Stoneham at an extreme high of a 16.7% gain.
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Other areas seem to have had commercial decreases and residential gains offset, such as Quincy and Chelsea, both of which used just about the same amount of water during the timeframe of the report.
In an email update Friday night in which she shared the utility's report, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller noted that the city’s largest annual water consumer, Boston College, largely shuttered its campus in mid-March. Hotels and office buildings have also closed, but residents using more water during stay-at-home orders seem to have largely made up the difference – the city’s use dropped just 2.3%.
The Department of Health in Massachusetts continues to broadcast the importance of handwashing for 20 seconds as the simplest way to protect yourself from viruses.
"Keep up the handwashing," Fuller wrote, "the Quabbin Reservoir which Newton draws from is filled nearly to its massive brim in Central Massachusetts."