In preparation for the Delaware Aqueduct shutdown, several initiatives to reduce water consumption have been proposed for New York City. Cutting off 50% of the water supply will be a major crisis, with catastrophe looming if a drought should coincide with the shutdown. The Water Board states that they are confident that the Delaware Aqueduct shutdown will not result in a NYC drought, but nevertheless recently redefined drought to mean insufficient water reaching the city, opposed to the old definition meaning insufficient water in the reservoirs.
The DEP was counting on conservation as the cheapest and most viable solution to cope with a severely diminished water supply, but it’s not working. Efforts are not being taken seriously, and Department of Environmental Protection is worried that reducing consumption will reduce revenue. As shown in the accompanying graphs, revenue in recent years has increased while consumption has remained stagnant.
The Toilet Replacement Program, introduced in 2014 as part of the Multifamily Conservation Program, offered vouchers to purchase high efficiency toilets. However, the program fell short of achieving substantial conservation as the group of eligible recipients is far too small. In order to qualify, customers must be on a flat-rate billing. However, most New Yorkers use a metered billing system, paying per usage. This is no coincidence. The DEP strategically designed a program in which they appear to be promoting conservation, while insuring revenue increases.
The DEP boasts how water consumption has dropped for municipal properties such as public schools and government buildings. The only reason consumption dropped is because these buildings pay a flat-rate and were eligible for toilet replacement. Although consumption has dropped in these buildings due to toilet replacement, leaks and running faucets are likely to go unnoticed, as they make no impact on their water bill. Government-owned property should be held accountable for water usage and billed based upon consumption. Moreover, to successfully conserve water, non-flat rate payers should be able to participate in conservation programs.
It is evident that the DEP does not want people to save money by saving water. It’s about time Mayor de Blasio and the DEP recognize that in the long run, water security for New York City is more important than revenue. Without proper conservation methods in place and major modifications made to plumbing in all buildings, New York City will not be prepared for the staged drought at the time of the Delaware Aqueduct shutdown. If conservation is taken seriously, the shutdown will only pose minor inconvenience. If it is not, the drought will be catastrophic.