Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

(April 2022)

Is the Cotuit Water Department part of the Town?

No.  The Water Department is part of the Cotuit Fire District, which was established as a separate entity in 1936 to provide fire and water services for our Village.  The Fire District raises revenue from a surcharge on the Town’s property tax.  District voters determine the budget each year at an annual District meeting.  While we cooperate with the Town on the issuance of tax bills, no Town funds are used to operate the District or the Water Department.

Where does Cotuit’s water come from?

Cotuit’s water is drawn from five groundwater wells located on 244 acres of land owned by the Cotuit Water District.  Three stations are on Sampsons Mill Road, one is on Main Street, and one is on Falmouth Road (Route 28) near the Mashpee line.

Who governs the Water Department?  Who manages it?

The Cotuit Water Department is governed by a board of three Water Commissioners elected by District voters for staggered 3-year terms.  The Water Department is managed by Superintendent Chris Wiseman who has 36 years of experience in our department.

How many households are served by the Cotuit Water Department?  How many miles of water mains?  How many fire hydrants are maintained?

As of 2022 there are 2,347 water services (i.e. supply connections) in the District, 53 miles of water mains and 444 hydrants maintained by the department.  A 2019 study conducted for the Water Department determined that 17 percent of the water supply is needed for basic fire protection; the remainder is used by residences, businesses, and irrigation systems.

What are the facilities operated by the Department?

The Cotuit Water Department operated five pumping stations, two water tanks, and a corrosion control facility.  Its office is located at 4300 Falmouth Road (Route 28).  The corrosion control facility mixes a lime slurry which is transported to the pumping stations and is then added to the water supply to raise the alkalinity.  This treatment helps to prevent the corrosion of soft metals such as lead and copper.

How much water is pumped annually?  Is it a lot more in the summer?

In 2021, the annual pumpage was 202 million gallons.  Pumping is much higher in the summer.  In fact, on the largest water use day (June 9, 2021) approximately 1.5 million gallons were pumped.

What is the Department’s budget?  Where does the money go?

The Cotuit Water Department’s fiscal year (July 1 – June 30) operating budget runs approximately $700,000-$800,000 in recent years.  This covers the cost of staff salaries, as well as the operation and maintenance needed to deliver high-quality water to Cotuit residents.  There are currently five full-time employees of the Water Department. 

How is the water and operations paid for?

Cotuit water users pay for water in two ways:  through water usage fees and a tax levy.  Households pay water usage fees through water bills the Department sends out 2-4 times per year.  The Town of Barnstable collects the tax levy and remits to the Cotuit Fire District (which is home to the Water Department).  Higher volume water users pay more on a graduated rate scale.  Typically, high volume users tend to be those with in-ground irrigation systems tied to the water supply.

What is the water billing schedule?

There are two water billing cycles per year in Cotuit:  January through June, and July through December.  Each home that is supplied with water from the District receives one bill in March and one in October.  These bills cover the minimum water use per connection (10,000 gallons).  At the end of each billing period (June and December), any connection that uses more than 10,000 gallons will be billed for the additional water.

Please note:  In January 2022, a rate increase for higher water usage tiers went into effect.  To help cover operational costs for the Water Department and encourage conservation of Cotuit’s sole source of drinking water.  More details on water rates: click here.

Is the water safe to drink?

The Cotuit water supply meets all relevant state health requirements.  The Department tests for several regulated contaminants, including: bacteria, (E.coli, total coliform), nitrate, radioactive contaminants, lead, copper, sodium, sulfate, and now PFAS.  Sodium levels have increased over the years, owing to residential development and road salting.  Please refer to the annual Drinking Water Quality Report for additional details.  These reports are mailed to each customer in the spring and are also available on the District’s website by clicking here

How often is the water tested?

Testing frequency depends on the component being tested.  For example, bacteria samples are taken twice a month, while testing for lead and copper occurs every three years. 

What chemicals are added to water supply?

Cotuit Water Department uses small quantities of sodium hypochlorite (chlorine) and calcium hydroxide (lime) in its water treatment.  Chlorine helps disinfect the water from harmful bacteria that could make you sick.  Lime is used as a water softener to help reduce corrosion in the distribution system and in your home.  The Department does not add fluoride to the water supply.

Are you on top of PFAS and other emerging contaminants?

The Water Department began testing for PFAS before it was required by the state of Massachusetts.  PFAS is an acronym for a suite of chemicals found in many household products and fire-retardant materials.  Cotuit’s water is below the maximum limit for PFAS in drinking water set by the state in 2020.  The Water Department will continue to follow guidance from the state on regulating PFAS in public drinking water.

Why is the spring water main flushing program needed?

Spring flushing enables the Department to continue providing high-quality drinking water.  Flushing helps clear naturally occurring deposits that can build up over the year and potentially affect the appearance of water.  It is a best practice for preventative maintenance and is practiced by water suppliers all over Cape Cod.  If you notice any temporary discoloration of your tap water during this flushing period, let the water run until clear or call the Department for more guidance.  Flushing details: click here.

Can I install an in-ground automatic sprinkler system?

A new policy was adopted in August 2021 that prohibits any new, automatic in-ground irrigation systems to be connected to the public water supply.  Homeowners may install a system that is connected to a private well.  The full policy is available here.

How is the water supply protected from vandalism or terrorists?

Cotuit’s five pumping stations are secured facilities with measures including industrial locks and double gating.  Security cameras are placed at all pumping stations and water tanks.  The cameras are connected to our office by fiber optic cables for ease of monitoring.  There are conservation restrictions in place to protect the land surrounding the five public wells.  Additionally, Cotuit has emergency response plans if water related vandalism or terrorist attacks were to occur.  State regulations require these plans to be reviewed annually and updated as necessary.

Are we protected if the system fails?  Where would we get water then?

The Cotuit Water Department has several mechanisms in place to monitor for, prevent and respond to any system failures.  Water personnel visit each pump station every date.  There are automated alarms to alert the department of mechanical issues.  The Department maintains two water towers with 800,000 gallons of elevated storage, each of which could supply the entire District for a time if necessary.  We also have four interconnections with surrounding districts (Mashpee and Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills) in case water was needed from another source. 

What can I do if I don’t like the way the water tastes or looks?

Any perceptible reduction in quality should be reported to the Cotuit Water Department (508-428-2687).  Some households choose alternative water delivery systems like private wells.  Some homeowners may also choose to install an In-home filtration system.

Has the Water Department taken steps to protect against Cyber Threats?

Yes.  In 2018 the Water Department upgraded the existing radio system to a closed fiber optic system with 2 factor authentication for system access.  The antiquated hardware and software were removed and replaced with appropriate equipment and security programs to operate the systems.  The system was further enhanced with an upgraded firewall, which is updated periodically.  The upgrade was a robust improvement providing enhanced security and access to the SCADA system, which controls the wells and tanks, specifically to address these cyber concerns.