Water Watch NYC

Everything you need to know about water in NYC.


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NYC Water and Sewer Rate Increase

The DEP held a public water board meeting on Friday April 29th and proposed a 4.9% water rate increase, citing lower consumption and water bills not being paid. Consumers will be shocked, as there has been minimal increases in recent years, and this would be the LARGEST increase that we have seen in some time. We predict that the DEP will reduce the increase from 4.9% to 4.7%.

The meeting also included measures to increase the late payment fee, and an increase in capital construction funding by 21%. There will be public hearings held in the coming months with rate updates and revisions for NYC.


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Ten Ways to Improve the DEP – #9: Fix the “My DEP” website

If you’re a New York City property owner and have a building registered with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), you might be familiar with the water meter services available on the “My DEP” customer website. You have the ease and convenience of paying your water bill online, as well as viewing your building’s water consumption, but it isn’t as easy to access real-time water meter reads or even convenient to add another building to your account (without spending a lot of time on the phone with DEP staff). Once upon a time you did – what happened?

On September 13th 2019, the DEP made a “necessary technological update” to the customer site which ultimately limited the availability of valuable meter data, complicated the user interface, and removed the ability for building owners to read their own meters (at one time, plumbers were able to see every water meter installed in a building, but now, fire and water meters that are on monitor status can no longer be seen.).

Since property managers can’t effectively monitor their buildings and navigate the “new and improved” site, many can’t make bill payments (there has been a noticeable increase in late bill payments, and a general decrease in the number of bills being paid – period.).

Why can’t consumers view and utilize their own water meter data and accurately monitor the consumption rate? Why can’t a property manager add another property to their account without having to contact a representative from the DEP?

Transparency is no longer the name of the game, and unfortunately, it’s at the detriment of both the consumer and the DEP. Regaining access to public information and reinstating the basic function of the My DEP website is just the start, and the results could spell an improved relationship between the organization and the frustrated property managers of New York City.


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Good News: Low-income families will receive assistance paying water bills

Governor Kathy Hochul announced that $69.8 million in federal funds will be made available to support low-income New Yorkers in paying past-due bills for drinking water and wastewater. The Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), provides eligible applicants with “up to $2,500 for drinking water arrears and $2,500 for wastewater arrears to help them avoid service interruptions when the moratorium on shutoffs expires next month.”

This initiative will assist approximately 105,000 homes within New York.

According to Governor Hochul, the program was created to help struggling New Yorkers recover from the pandemic. Anyone who is interested can simply apply online.

Ashokan Water Services Contributed to this report


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Ten Ways to Improve the DEP – #10: Automate the Permit Process

Author: Matthew Cohen 12/03/21 1:01 PM (EST)

As anyone who has ever applied for a DEP permit knows, it’s a long & arduous task.

First, you have to fill out a form, travel to the borough office, hand in the form, and then wait. You’ll have to wait in the office for a while before getting your permit, even in the most efficient borough offices.  

We all know that the words “efficient”, and “DEP borough office” don’t usually go together. In most cases, you’ll have to go back to the office the next day, and hope everything went smoothly to get your permit back.

In light of the aforementioned inefficiency, why isn’t there a process to allow permit applications online? Other city agencies such as the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) allow a user to utilize an online form. Once this form is submitted, they typically receive a reply within 24 hours.

The DEP is such an important agency, yet it still uses antiquated methods. The DOB’s forms are considerably more complicated than the DEP’s, but their process is efficient.

Automation is a prerequisite for efficiency in today’s world. Whether it is a Government Agency, or a Small Business, almost everything is automated in 2021. The DEP simply needs to install the same automated system that the DOB uses, and notify the public that it is available.

The most preeminent feature of automating the permit process is that it benefits all New Yorkers (not just city Plumbers). Automation will reduce errors, and costs; the reduction in costs helps taxpayers save money as well

In addition, streamlining the system will also make construction & city improvements more efficient, and cost-effective. The current economic landscape gives the city another reason to make this change. Every industry has been affected by this; these changes will certainly make a measurable impact. Even small changes help, and typically have a ripple effect.

My hope is that the current administration takes this advice, it is rather simple to implement.

Ashokan Water Services contributed to this report


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Ten Ways Eric Adams can improve the DEP

Author: Matthew Cohen

Date: 11/16/2021

Eric Adams has a myriad of issues to address as he begins his tenure as the Mayor of New York City.

One of the more practical, cost-efficient, & simple fixes he can make is reforming the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) in regard to their Customer Service. The NYC DEP is integral to protecting our environment, yet it is universally misunderstood & hated. How can this agency be so important, yet is simultaneously loathed?

First & foremost, the Customer Satisfaction of the DEP is abhorrent. Water Industry Professionals (such as Plumbing Contractors) have to wait weeks in many cases, just to receive an obfuscated & vague response to an issue.

Whether it is billing issues, obtaining permits, answers to high priority inquiries, lack of transparency for Codes & Regulations, or exorbitant fines, it appears that this list is only a microcosm of the ineptitude displayed by the DEP.

This list of quagmires, & conundrums is quite extensive. Albeit true, I have my own list of solutions that I will post next week. Mayor Adams is the antithesis of the DEP; he’s a problem solver, and a true leader. I have confidence that if his administration takes my advice, the DEP can be reformed in less than 6 months.

Ashokan Water Services contributed to this article


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Kathryn Garcia – The Environmental Candidate

New York City mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia

With the Democratic Mayoral primaries fast approaching, we at Ashokan Water have environmental concerns on the forefront of our minds. While many of the candidates have taken the time to address the environmental issues facing the City; none are as well versed with the issues as Kathryn Garcia. Ms. Garcia has spent her career within government working on the city’s largest environmental issues. Her work for our City speaks for itself.  Having held several positions in the NYC Department of Environmental Protection under Mayor Bloomberg, Kathryn Garcia was tasked with overseeing The Bureau of Water Supply, the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations, and the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment. In later years, Ms. Garcia went on to become the Commissioner of the NYC Department of Sanitation where she again tackled the city’s environmental issues. Garcia helped to pass the city’s waste equity law (in 2018) helping distribute the waste burden on the city’s communities equally and not more heavily on lower income communities as had previously been the case. 

The change that Kathryn Garcia has implemented in our city proves that she truly understands and cares about environmental protection and conservation within our city. Other candidates speak about the environment, but Garcia is a true technocrat, and clearly the environmental candidate to rally behind.


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Why the Taste of NYC Water May Change in 2022

Our friend Charles Sturcken of the DEP recently explained why water tastes different in different parts of New York City, and why the taste may change in 2022.

Neighborhoods in New York City receive their drinking water from reservoirs of the Catskill System, Croton System, Delaware System, or a combination of the three systems. The chemistry of each water source is different because of the underlying geology that surrounds our reservoirs in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley. Differences in bedrock and soil affect pH, alkalinity, calcium content and other chemical characteristics of our drinking water. Water consumers will generally not notice these small differences. However, those who use New York City water to operate industrial equipment and mechanical systems might notice that changes in water chemistry require adjustments to their treatment systems, maintenance regiments and other upkeep routines.

Croton Distribution into Manhattan & Bronx with Pumping to Queens
A map of where different water sources supply different neighborhoods in New York City.

From the end of May until October, the DEP expects the reservoir and distribution systems to be in their normal operating condition. That configuration will likely change in October when the DEP shuts the Catskill Aqueduct for the final year of a rehabilitation project that will keep the century-old aqueduct in good working order for the next 100 years. Continued updates of the water distribution maps and other information can be found at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dep/water/current-water-distribution.page .


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NYC Water Board Announces Rate And Interest Increase Effective July 1st, 2021

The New York City Water Board met to propose changes to the Water & Sewer Rate Schedule to be effective July 1st, 2021. The meeting took place via teleconference on Monday May 10th at 9 AM, and was attended by Board Members Alfonso Carney, Dr. Demetrius Carolina, Sr., Evelyn Fernandez-Ketcham, Adam Freed, Jonathan Goldin, Jukay Hsu, and Arlene Shaw.

One Student's Debt | University of Virginia School of Law
Water Board Member Alfonso Carney

The Board announced that rates would increase by 2.76%, after years with no increase. The rate increase wasn’t unexpected, as the DEP has incurred additional cost due to Covid while consumption dropped reducing revenue. it As expected, for the eighth year in a row the deadline to file paperwork for the Multi-family Conservation Program was extended once again. This time they blamed the extension on Covid.

The most significant financial change announced was that the interest rates for late payments involving certain properties would increase from 5% to 18%. According to the Board, a two-tier interest rate had been in effect based upon the valuation of the property, but the 5% rate was the only one that was enforceable due to computer program limitations. With the upcoming launch of new software, the DEP is now able to apply the 18% interest rate to certain properties, as well as keep the 5% rate for others.

Two public hearings will be held on June 1st and 2nd at 12 PM and 6 PM, respectively, via conference call. Interested parties can call (347) 921-5612 with the access code: 107 181 687, or email comments to nycwaterboard@dep.nyc.gov by 4 PM the day before the hearing.

Not bad news for this crazy year.


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DEP Holds Important Meeting When Everyone Is On Vacation

On December 31st, the DEP held a virtual meeting to discuss Title 15, Chapter 20 of the Rules of the City of New York (RCNY), allowing attendees to voice their comments and concerns. Despite the meeting being held at a time when many people typically take time off, Hershel Weiss attended, and submitted a summation of his thoughts to the DEP afterwards, which you can read below:

My name is Hershel Weiss. I am a mechanical engineer, NYC Master Licensed Plumber, Past President of American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE), member of Building Owners and Managers (BOMA) Plumbing Committee,   principal at Ashokan, a firm specializing in Meter Reading and Backflow Testing. I have represented ASPE at the NYC Plumbing Code Adoption committee since its inceptions. 

 I cannot intelligently discuss the proposed modifications to RCNY chapter 20 of Title 15 in three minutes but would like to discuss the process.  A committee exists to review the NYC Plumbing Code, comprising members of the DOB, FDNY,  Con- Ed, National Grid, HPD,  Housing Authority, SCA, Parks Department, Port Authority, REBNY, BOMA,  Master Plumbers Council, Plumbing Foundation, American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE), American Society of Sanitary Engineers,  ASHRAE, all the plumbing unions and the largest plumbing and MEP firms, and the DEP.  We meet to discuss and propose all plumbing code changes. The meetings are well-attended, conducted in a cordial manner and result in a well thought out regulations and buildings codes. This process used to apply to both the Plumbing code and RCNY Chapter 20 of Title 15 , but  the DEP has circumvented the process –  as being done today.

I cannot highlight the importance of a committee meeting to discuss each and every modification proposed today,  but would like to touch on one sample issue. Years ago, the DEP had a plumbing and subsurface committee. At that committee, the DEP proposed requiring curb valves for domestic services under 2” as is being proposed today. At that time the following objections were raised:

  1. Real estate interest and homeowners was opposed to the cost estimated as an increase of 20- 35% in the price of water main replacement since an additional excavation would have to be created in the sidewalk. I am sure these parties are still opposed to the curb valve requirement, but have not been informed of this hearing. Furthermore, does the water board know that their water main insurance will increase by a third?
  2. The Parks Department was concerned about tree pits.
  3. Landmarks wanted an exemption where streets have bluestone pavers.
    1. None of these concerns are address in this modification

This is a simple item affecting multiple stakeholders. Other modification being proposed are much more complicated and warrant a conversation with all stakeholders.

I recommend that the proposed changes be shelved until a committee is convened to review each modification. I called many of the members of NYC’s Plumbing Code committee and they were not aware of today’s meeting. It is time for the DEP to stop operating in the dark.  Modifications to the law should not take place in meetings restricted to 3 minutes on New Year’s Eve.

Warren Liebold – We Will Miss You.

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We are saddened to hear the news of Warren Liebold’s passing on August 20. Warren was a colleague, friend and mentor to all of us at Ashokan. Nothing happened in the field of water conservation without his involvement. We first met when I was working for HPD and Warren was brought on by then DEP Commissioner Al Appleton to promote a new DEP rebate program. I assumed it would go nowhere. A year later it grew into the largest water conservation program in the United States, and as a result water consumption plummeted in NYC. He realized that greater reductions could be obtained by holding property owners responsible for their consumption, and rolled NYC’s Water meter installation program. He then decided to provide consumers with transparency tools to monitor consumption and created New York’s Automatic Meter reading Program. Due to his perseverance, everything he did was a great success.

In 1997 I discussed opening a water services company with him and he recommended that I name it Ashokan.

For twenty years we discuss food and film, but I was awed by Warren’s encyclopedic knowledge of water conservation. Everyone in the industry knew that if you attended a water conservation seminar Warren would be speaking and announcing a new program. No building code relating to water took place without Warren. We worked together on NYC’s Adoption of the International Plumbing Code, The Mayor’s Green Code Task Force, Water Reuse guidelines etc. If you live in NYC and take the water for granted you owe a debt of gratitude to Warren Liebold. He will be missed.