Drought conditions persist into October on campus, in region

Chris Bordlemay
Blaine Friedlander/Cornell Chronicle
Chris Bordlemay, left, Cornell’s water and wastewater manager, and Liz Cameron listen to Peggy Coleman during a panel discussion on the drought Oct. 3 at the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.

Effective water-use reduction strategy and education has cascaded into keeping Cornell from going dry in this summer-fall drought, noted Chris Bordlemay, speaking to local leaders Oct. 3 at the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce Government and Community Affairs meeting.

“Cornell, at times, had been on the cusp of not having enough water,” said Bordlemay, Cornell’s water and wastewater manager. He said that cooperation on campus, coupled with an education component, has saved tens of thousands of gallons daily.

Cornell, which obtains its water from Fall Creek, issued water-use restrictions July 28 and remains in a second-stage drought. While August brought some rain, the rainfall in the Fall Creek watershed “is not recharging the ground water just yet. We remain in drought conditions,” Bordlemay said.

The lowest recorded flow in this drought was Sept. 29, when the stream was flowing just above 7 cubic feet per second, said Bordlemay. Fall Creek water flow rate on July 28 measured 9.5 cubic feet per second; normal flow rate in the summer ranges between 40 and 50 cubic feet per second. Explained Bordlemay: “Although it seems we’re coming out of it, we’re still dealing with it.”

At the meeting, community leaders heard varying perspectives on the drought. Panelists included Bordlemay, Fred Bonn, Finger Lakes Regional director of New York State Parks; Liz Cameron, Tompkins County Environmental Health director; Lin Davidson, Tompkins County Farm Bureau; Peggy Coleman, Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau; Joan Foote, general manager of Bolton Point; and Mike Thorne, the city of Ithaca’s superintendent of public works.

A common theme was community collaboration. “It’s been an interesting summer. We have all three water purveyors here – Ithaca, Bolton Point and Cornell,” said Bordlemay. “We spent the summer in meetings to make contingency plans for supporting one another in the event that we ran out of water.” The city of Ithaca has been receiving water from Bolton Point due to construction projects already underway.

Gary Stewart, Cornell associate vice president of community relations, organized the panel for the Chamber of Commerce. Stewart said there is a strong level of cooperation among the county’s water-related entities. “Solid work like this is the norm between local governments and organizations, but sometimes it doesn’t get the positive light it deserves,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have such highly trained professionals in Tompkins County.”

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