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.
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 .
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.
Mayor de Blasio appointed Vincent Sapienza as acting Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner earlier this month to replace the departing Emily Lloyd. Sapienza has been dragged to the front row as a figurehead representing the DEP after maintaining a non-political post in charge of the DEP’s infrastructure.
The boots Sapienza will be stepping into will no doubt be muddy. Emily Lloyd left behind a number of major challenges that need to be addressed immediately.
The first challenge is the absence of the water rate increase. For the first time since 1995, the water rate increase was revoked by court. How will the Water Board balance its budget if New York City citizens won’t be charged more for water? This is great news for the people but what will happen to the dynamics of political funds?
Another challenge Sapienza will duel with are concerns the Multi-family Conservation Program (MCP) applications. MCP allows flat-rate billing of water bills for buildings with four or more apartments. The MCP program can help save water but thousands of MCP applications are backed up and the MCP guidelines are being ignored. Is the DEP withholding from processing these applications because they know they will lose money?
These problems presented require a permanent commissioner, not from an acting commissioner. I strongly urge Mayor de Blasio to appoint Vincent Sapienza to be the permanent DEP commissioner so these issues can be dealt with. This is a time of crisis for the DEP, the DEP’s reputation and trust from the people are at stake and we need someone with a firm grip on the steering wheel, not an acting commissioner.
After over forty years of public service to the City of New York, DEP’s Commissioner Emily Lloyd has taken a definitive leave of retirement due to her medical condition.
We at Ashokan greatly thank Emily for her services to the public and for her contributions to the people of New York City. Emily has worked as the DEP’s Commissioner for two terms; the first during Mayor Bloomberg’s reign and now under de Blasio’s governing hands. Her efforts have and ensured that all NYC residents have access to the cleanest water in the eastern seaboard.
Ex-Commissioner Lloyd has an outstanding history of serving the public. She has held positions such as the Commissioner of Sanitation and as President of the Prospect Park Alliance. Ms. Lloyd’s efforts has done so much for the people of New York throughout her career in order to ensure the protection and maintenance of the city’s recreational areas.
We all wish her a warm goodbye and the best with her recovery in the future.
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.
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.
Dressed in an ash grey suit with a periwinkle tie, Mayor Bill de Blasio exclaimed, “Today we are righting (sic) a wrong”. Back in late April in Bay Ridge, Mayor de Blasio developed a plan for New York City homeowners to save money on their water bills by having the city present a one-time water credit to all homeowners within the five boroughs.
“This is part of an overall effort to address the needs of everyday working people all over the city to make sure that what city does is fair,” proclaimed de Blasio.
The push for this proposal was de Blasio’s belief that homeowners within the five boroughs were paying too much for their water bills. Backed by the Department of Environmental Protection’s Commissioner Emily Lloyd, de Blasio proposed a $183 one-time water bill credit to all homeowners with one to three family units within the five boroughs.
According to de Blasio, the proposed bill would cover about 664,000 homeowners for the summer. The 664,000 homeowners make up about 80 percent of all water bill accounts. With this one-time bill credit, homeowners can save 17 to 40 percent on their annual water bill.
Seniors who make up 120,000 of the total amount of homeowners residing in the city will also benefit greatly from an additional bill credit.
“This action we are announcing today will save homeowners across all five boroughs a total of 82 million dollars in fiscal year 2016, the fiscal year we are in right now. Eighty-two million,” said de Blasio.
According to the DEP, this credit program has already passed water board committee members and will be in effect as of July 1st. This is the first step in a series of changes the mayor is attempting to put into effect for water use policies.
The DEP has been promoting water conservation for two decades, since the droughts of the 1980s. But June 17, 2011, the Water Board’s last meeting of the fiscal year, marked the end of an era of “conservation” rhetoric. Gone are the days of saving water and taxpayer money. The future is all about increased sales and maximum revenue: consumption, not conservation.
According to their financial presentation, the DEP collected $2.68 billion from residents last year and surpassed their own revenue projections by 2%. The good news: that’s the first time since 2005 that they haven’t made less money than hoped. The bad news: that’s also almost nine billion more gallons of water used, plus the $51 million more that taxpayers coughed up to pay for it. So why, after worshiping ‘less is more,’ are more water and more revenue suddenly a triumph? Over the past ten years, usage decreased for all but two of them (see the Water Board’s report, page 29). Now, with our water use back up to near 2009 levels, water is just a stream of revenue again.
Pay no attention to how our water rates are higher than ever, every year. (This year’s 7.5% hike to $8.21 is somehow the lowest rate hike since 2006.) All that seems to matter to the DEP and Water Board is that more people get more water and pay more and more for it. The leading concern of the Water Board, according to their Mission Statement, is whether “revenue collections will satisfy revenue requirements of the [Water and Sewer] System.”
The only kind of waste that makes sense in this System is wasted potential: water not sold, consumption not metered, bills not paid. More revenue can be good for the whole city. It just depends on why there’s more of it. More paying customers come naturally with more people in the city, which in turn requires expanded services. Still, the DEP has maintained that distributing more water will bring down its cost to residents. The ‘reduced increase’ of this year’s rate seems to corroborate that a bit, yet the DEP can only continue to reap increasing revenue at the increased expense of residents. Is such public service really self-service or endless debt service? For instance, are “same-customer sales” a real measure of success for a public agency? Does the fact that each customer paid (on average) 19.2% more in October 2010 to use 6% more water than in October 2009 constitute a win for New York City?
As it is, revenue maximization is our current course. Meanwhile, conservation is a promised land saved for rainy days. Where we’ll end up, though, depends on who adjusts the sails.