“New York City has some of the highest quality and best protected drinking water in the world,” said DEP Commissioner Sapienza.
By Forum Staff
The City Department of Environmental Protection has received a 10-year waiver from the State to continue delivering unfiltered drinking water from its Catskill and Delaware water supply systems, DEP announced on Thursday.
The waiver, known as a Filtration Avoidance Determination, was released on Thursday by the Department of Health. According to DEP, the City will commit an estimated $1 billion over the next decade to comply with the FAD by administering programs that protect the upstate reservoirs and the vast watershed lands that surround them.
For decades the City has implemented a strategy of source-water protection to maintain the high quality of water in its reservoirs. The science-based programs in the FAD are rooted in the premise that it is most cost effective and environmentally sound to protect the quality of water at its natural source. DEP’s programs in the watershed have become a national and international model for protecting water at its source. According to the de Blasio administration, each year, water utility managers and public health professionals come from around the globe to study the City’s watershed programs.
“The renewal of our filtration waiver underscores that New York City has some of the highest quality and best protected drinking water in the world,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “But protecting our water at its source in the Catskill Mountains does not happen by accident. The programs outlined in the FAD are based on decades of scientific research and investment. Since the City received its first filtration waiver in the early 1990s we have protected open space around our reservoirs, invested in wastewater upgrades, forged partnerships with watershed farmers, and focused considerable attention on the forests, streams and wetlands that comprise the natural infrastructure of our water supply. Importantly, none of this work could succeed without the vital local partners who administer our watershed protection programs. New Yorkers owe their gratitude to the nonprofits, government agencies and other watershed-based partners who carry out this work as we push toward the common goal of protecting the largest municipal water supply in the United States.”
Over the past 25 years, the City’s watershed protection programs have been praised as a worldwide model for protecting the quality of drinking water at its source. These efforts, paired with a “robust” program of water-quality testing and infrastructure improvements, have allowed the City to avoid the construction of a costly filtration plant for its Catskill and Delaware supplies. Such a facility is estimated to cost more than $10 billion to construct, upwards of $100 million to operate each year, and would be the largest public works project in the history of the City.
According to the City, DEP manages the Big Apple’s water supply, providing more than 1 billion gallons of high-quality water each day to more than 9.5 million New Yorkers. This includes more than 70 upstate communities and institutions in Ulster, Orange, Putnam and Westchester counties who consume an average of 110 million total gallons of drinking water daily from NYC’s water supply system. The water comes from the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton watersheds that extend more than 125 miles from the City; and the system comprises 19 reservoirs, three controlled lakes, and numerous tunnels and aqueducts.