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First the paperwork, then the footwork and eventually Water District 5

By Joanne Beck
bethany water tanker nov. 2023
2023 File Photo of a Bethany resident filling up his water tote due to severe drought and dry residential wells, a situation that hasn't changed as we head into 2024. 
Photo by Howard Owens

Declaring a State of Emergency hasn’t produced a miracle in terms of water for the dehydrated town of Bethany, Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. says, but it has established the seriousness of what town residents are facing for their future needs.

“It lets the state and federal officials know the dire situation we are in, and when we file paperwork for Water District 5, that it is expedited,” Hyde said to The Batavian Thursday. “The DHES (Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services) is looking to figure out what else they can do to help out the residents. And when it comes time to review the paperwork, we have priority.”

As the declaration stated, there are 100 residential properties and two large farms without water due to empty wells. All of them are having to travel to fill water totes on a regular basis to meet their needs, including one farm that requires 60,000 gallons a day to sustain its operation. 

“That means having drivers and trucks, some are paying to have it hauled, and the fuel expense,” he said. “There’s a lot of money tied up in this.”

Lack of precipitation has taken the blame for the severe drought in the area, and with little rain and snow yet to come, wells have not recharged and “we still have people that are running out of water,” Hyde said.

There have been a few bright spots in this section of Bethany desert: a state water tanker was sent to the town for a month so that citizens could get their water totes filled at town hall; private donations generously supplied residents with several pallets of bottled drinking water; and a second attempt for a state grant to shore up funding for Water District 5 was approved at the end of 2023. 

Right now, it’s full steam ahead with the legalities for the water district, Hyde said. Since the original budget and related funding fell through due to COVID issues, a new budget and paperwork need to be drafted, and another public hearing will have to be scheduled, he said.

“The water district is still moving forward. We’re waiting to hear from the town’s attorney about the public hearing … that should be in the next two to three weeks. Because of the budget overrun, we have to take it back to the residents,” he said. “We have the full funding for the project, (the residents’) cost doesn’t go up, we have to make them aware of where we’re at in the process of doing the legal stuff.”

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