The town of Sudbury, Massachusetts, passed a bylaw in 2000 which requires any residential property owners who get an in-ground irrigation system installed to also get a private well. The wells are meant to supply irrigation water, and are exempt from any water use restrictions put in place by the Sudbury Water District (SWD). That makes them an attractive investment to property owners, but the recent drought in the region has made the wells a target.

A proposed law which is about to be considered in the next town meeting would allow local selectmen to restrict the use of private wells in the event of a drought. “Our concern is really one of public health and safety,” said SWD commissioner Lisa Eggleston. “We just don’t want to run out of water.”

The proposal is limited in scope. Private wells could only implement time and day restrictions if the state issues a drought warning declaration, and wells drilled before 2000 would be exempt. Still, the law stands to devalue the investment that a private well represents.

“A lot of people have spent a lot of money digging their own private wells, specifically so that they don’t have to be subject to those restrictions,” said Eggleston. “We do understand that, so we’re trying to be sensitive to their concerns. But there are times when, as a community, we all need to do our part and protect our resources.”