Water Watch NYC

Everything you need to know about water in NYC.


Victory for Taxpayers of New York

Just short of a week ago, Supreme Justice Carol Edmead voided the Water Board and City Hall’s authority to impose a water rate hike for this year as well as terminated the program to reimburse small homeowners on their water bill credit.

Citing unfair and preferential distribution of funds, the city of New York and the Water Board were stopped in their tracks by the people of New York.

Thanks should be given to Joseph Strasburg of the Rent Stabilization Association who fought against City Hall and the Water Board for this win for the people of New York.

Further applause should be given to Justice Edmead who is protecting the taxpayers of New York and our fragile water system from the greedy hands of politicians.

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Supreme Justice Shuts Down City Water Hike

On Monday, Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead declared that NYC Water Board will not have the authority to raise the water rate for fiscal year 2017. This motion froze and voided the Water Board’s authority to raise the cost of water by 2.1% and eliminates de Blasio’s homeowners’ water credit reimbursement program.

Immediately following the decision, the City has decided to appeal this order.

The judge’s final decision came after retaliation from Rent Stabilization Association members and various landlords who ordered that the actions of the Water Board and City Hall were inequitable. The water credit program favored small homeowners and excluded apartment, property, co-op, and condo owners.

According to court papers, Justice Edmead decided that the reimbursement program violated and surpassed the boundaries of the Water Board’s authority.



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Ten Ways to Save the DEP – #6: Reduce Spending and Debt

While it’s true that most (if not all) of our Ten Ways to Save the DEP, point to the reduction of spending and debt in one way or another, they have all really been about other things. For example, we talked about stormwater rates, which would raise more money and therefore reduce debt. We talked about automating the permit process, thereby streamlining bureaucracy in order to reduce spending and debt. Even fixing the Delaware Aqueduct would save the DEP money because they’d no longer have 36 million gallons of water a day going to waste.

However, the purpose of the suggestion that you’re reading about now is to discuss one concrete proposal that the DEP can easily implement that would make them greener, safer and more efficient. We at WaterWatchNYC urge the DEP to adopt BMPs.

BMPs, or Best Management Practices, are a series of guidelines aimed at water pollution control. The guidelines also make treatment and distribution processes more efficient, thereby saving money. Just a short list of things that fall under the category of BMPs that can be implemented in NYC:

  • Semi-permeable surfaces
  • Green roofs
  • Xeriscaping
  • Rainwater harvesting

The best thing about BMPs is that the ideas and guidelines already exist. We do need someone to come up with the next big thing in water conservation and pollution management and control. But until then, we have existing guidelines set forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Let’s use them.

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Ten Ways to Save the DEP – #4: Automate the Permit Process

As anyone who has ever taken out a DEP permit knows, it’s a long and arduous task. You have to fill out a form, go to the borough office, hand the form in and then wait. If you’ve gone to an efficient borough office you’ll wait in the office for a while before getting your permit back. But 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.

Why hasn’t the DEP started allowing permit applications to be done online? Fill out an online form, hit submit and get a reply within 24 hours. Simple. The DOB’s forms are filled out this way and theirs are way more complicated than the DEP’s!

The best part about automating the permit process is that it doesn’t just make getting a permit easier for New York City plumbers. All New Yorkers will benefit. It will reduce errors and cost, which in turn will reduce the cost of the taxpayers. Streamlining the system will also make construction and city improvements smoother. In this economy, when the construction industry has been hit just about harder than anything else, these changes will go a long way. Every little bit helps.


The Water in Our Parks vs. the Water in Our Sinks

Prospect Park Fallkilll Falls

Prospect Park's Fallkilll Falls

I recently came across a membership request postcard from the Prospect Park Alliance touting the restoration of their beautiful Fallkilll Falls. An interesting piece of trivia about Prospect Park is that its whole water system — lakes, waterfalls, beaches, islands — is entirely man-made. It’s a pretty fantastic feat of engineering (it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and its construction began in 1866), but it involves a dirty little secret.

The vast and impressive Prospect Park waterway, including its two pools, its stream through the Ravine, the 60-acre Lake and the Lullwater that connects the Ravine to the Lake, all starts with the waterfall at Fallkill Falls. Have you ever wondered where all the water in Prospect Park Comes from?

The answer may surprise you. Since the entire system is man-made, it isn’t a naturally occurring system boosted by rain and other features of Brooklyn’s natural habitat and climate. Instead, the water actually comes from a pipe that has a valve that can be opened or closed, much like the faucet of your kitchen sink.

Actually, it’s more like your kitchen sink than you realize: Fallkilll Falls and your kitchen sink actually get their water from the same source. The only difference is that New York City charges you for your water use but they don’t charge Prospect Park. That’s right, the cost of water in New York City has to be high enough to offset the cost of every single drop of water in Prospect Park (and many other parks in the city, for that matter) as well as its strain on NYC’s water infrastructure.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating cutting off all water to New York City’s parks. New York is a beautiful city and much of it has to do with the beauty of our parks. The water in Prospect Park used to be supplied by a well until it was determined that it would be cheaper to use free water than to maintain the well. But in the end, don’t we all benefit if we can enjoy the beauty of our parks without it driving up the cost of our water?


Does Conservation Equal Higher Water Bills?

I would just like to quickly clarify something about the relationship between conservation, water rates and water bills.

Conservation necessitates higher water rates. There is no way around it: If we consume less of a product (in this case, water) then the product’s variable costs go down. But its fixed costs remain the same which equals a higher cost per unit.

But there is another thing to take into account. If we are conserving water, if we are truly using less of it, then even at a higher cost per unit, our total cost should go down.

Now let’s evaluate the opinion of Coucilman Vacca in the previous post, an opinion shared by many who spoke at last week’s City Council hearing. How can New Yorkers who are conserving water be seeing their water bills go up even as they are dying of dehydration?

The answer is that approximately one-third of the percentage points of the rate hike (4-5%) is going to fund things that are only remotely related to the cost of water, like the unfair rental agreement!

So to conclude: The DEP must stop blaming their rate hikes on conservation. Sure, conservation contributes but if you’re conserving water and your bill is too high, conservation is not to blame. Economics has proven that. The fault lies with the DEP and their enormous budget that continues to spiral out of control.

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Arne Naess, Philosopher/Environmentalist, Dead at 96

Erlend Aas/Scanpix Norway, 2004

We at WaterWatchNYC are sad to report the passing of prominent Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess, earlier this week.

Naess was one of the founding members of the ecosophy school of thought that fused ecology and philosophy to develop a way of living and thinking that was in tune with nature and our surroundings.

Naess, a noted mountaineer, cited Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as a key influence in his view of “deep ecology”–that we humans are an integral part of the environment. His writings have been instrumental in our motivation at Ashokan Water Services to protect New York’s watersheds and estuaries.

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Great Minds Think Alike

Yesterday’s New York Times featured a great editorial (read it here) about where we, the residents of New York, stand in terms of the impending rate hike. The editorial touches on quite a few issues already discussed by Water Watch NYC, like the rate hike as a tactic to obtain lien sale rights as well as the DEP’s historical ineptitude and lack of oversight.

Clearly the editors over at the Times really know what they’re talking about. Either that or they’ve been reading this blog.