Select Board Meets to Discuss Drought Impact

The Holliston Select Board held a rare mid-week, mid-day meeting prompted by the urgent need for water at the Pinecrest Golf Course.  Mr. Ahern and Mr. Sparrell were on vacation.  Vice-chair John Cronin called the remote meeting to order at 3:00pm.  Board Clerk Mrs. Hein, Asst Town Administrator / HR Director Kathleen Buckley, and Facilities Manager James Keast were present in the Select Board’s meeting room.

Mr. Cronin prefaced the conversation by reminding everyone that effective July 23, 2022, the Town enacted stricter outdoor water usage guidelines ->

Golf Course Advisory Committee Chair Deb Moore (below) outlined the situation.  The water supply from the golf course well and storage pond is not sufficient to keep the tees and greens hydrated.

Bill Harrison, President of New England Golf Corporation, the firm that manages the course added financial data to the discussion.  The course has been earning approximately $300,000 / year.  If sufficient water is not applied to the tees / greens, the grass on those areas would die.  The course would lose revenue this season as a result, and it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild the tees / greens.

The request from Mrs. Moore and Mr. Harrison was to temporarily link the golf course to the Town water supply (through an unused existing connection) and draw about 16,000 gallons per day to water seven of the eighteen holes.  A temporary connection because Mr. Harrison expects rain and cooler temperatures to return by mid-August.

Mr. Keast shared a presentation that outlines the current situation, short-term options, and long-term options as shown in the slides below.

Mr. Cronin and Mrs. Hein received input from DPW Director, Sean Reese (below), Fire Chief Michael Cassidy, and Select Board Chair (the last two via written statement).

Mr. Reese (above) stated that the Town wells are already producing about 800,000 fewer gallons / day.  The water department calculates that each town water user uses about 68 gallons / day.  He didn’t have the calculation handy.  (I did some math – if the course used 16,000 gallons / day that would be roughly equivalent to adding 235 new users to the Town’s system.)  Mr. Reese concluded by saying that from his perspective – such use of the Town water supply is, “not advisable.”

Chief Cassidy’s input, read by ATA / HR Director Buckley, referenced the current Level 3 drought conditions and the need to safeguard the Town’s water supply for residents and fire suppression.  He was not in favor of the request to use town water to supplement the course’s water supply.

Chair Sparrell’s message, also read by Ms. Buckley, expressed opposition to the use of Town water at this time.  Rather he supports the use of Golf Course operating budget funds to provide stopgap aid.  He offered the option to revisit the situation at a future date when the full Board is present.

Public Comments:

  • Mrs. Hein:
    • She is not surprised by this situation given what we know about climate change.
    • She considers Mr. Reese and Chief Cassidy input very strongly.
  • Mr. Cronin:
    • Received guidance from MA DEP that great care should be exercised in adding water users during this time of critical drought (see below)
  • Public: None

A motion was made by Mr. Cronin and seconded by Mrs. Hein that the Pinecrest golf course exercise Option 3 from Mr. Keast’s list (above) and use its operating funds to purchase tankers of water from private vendors to replenish the Pinecrest storage pond as a short-term solution.  With the option to revisit the need in 7 – 10 days.

The motion was unanimously approved.

Mrs. Moore inquired if other Holliston businesses (like the golf course) will be negatively impacted by the drought conditions.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:45pm.

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Chris Cain


  1. Stephen P. Nault on July 29, 2022 at 8:32 am

    If not already done, perhaps the town should halt the issuing of new home building permits until an assessment of future needs can be made?

  2. Matthew Barry on July 29, 2022 at 9:45 am

    The Town well production is down 800,000 gallons per day? This capacity is nearly our entire Average Daily Demand from 2021 of 1,017,871 gallons per day! Did we lose a well? Why has the Town allowed production to drop on their groundwater wells? Why aren’t the wells being re-developed to bring production back to or near original capacity? Has the Town looked into replacement wells? The Town should be held accountable for allowing our capacity to drop this much!!! We now have an opportunity to increase production and sell water so there would be a sizable increase to revenue and we can’t! So now Pinecrest is shipping $1,100 a day out of Town for water to be trucked in when this could be revenue for the water department. These questions need to be answered.

  3. Sean Reese, Holliston Director of Public Works on July 29, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Good Morning Mr. Barry,
    Thank you for your questions and valid concerns. Yes the town has contingencies in place regarding water supply those being active emergency connection with the towns of Milford and Ashland if the need arises. The reduction in pumpage was anticipated with the loss of Well No 5 on Central Street due to the on going construction of our new water treatment plant.
    An additional reduction in water supply is due to the pump reduction of Well No 8 on Maple Street, that reduction of flow is strictly due to drought conditions. We have reduced flow and turn the well off for periods to regain the drawdown.
    Coincidentally, that well is where the highest PFAS numbers are from. We test monthly at that location for that contaminant and due to those elevated numbers consultants have worked contingencies and cost for treatment in the event filtration must be done. The PFAS numbers have been relatively low for the past 6 months and we are currently not near a violation but Holliston and other communities have had swings of up to 15 ppt from one month to another with PFAS testing. PFAS remains an emerging issue and I would expect regulation to become greater.
    Those contingencies/solutions are in place for drought conditions, pumpage and PFAS.
    A major area of concern for me remains to be what I would consider non essential irrigation during this major drought. Which is why I objected to the use of municipal water to irrigate the golf course and further object to the drilling of a deeper well. The answer must be conservation and a reduction of usage.
    I hope this addresses at least some of your concerns. Please feel free to contact me directly with any additional questions and or concerns.

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