In July 2012 we called on our government leaders to come up with a management plan for Long Island’s rapidly diminishing — and increasingly polluted –– water supply.
“Our state, county and local government should enact a management plan to oversee Long Island’s 57 municipal and 61 privately owned water suppliers, which draw water from more than 1,000 wells,” we wrote. “A management plan would help ensure that we are not taking more water out of the aquifers than can be replaced naturally by rain.”
Such a management plan has never been more critical. New York City wants to draw water from our aquifers to help meet its needs while it repairs two aqueduct pipes that connect upstate reservoirs to the five boroughs. According to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, roughly 35 million gallons of water are leaking from the pipes. That obviously constitutes an emergency.
The thing is, New York City officials want to make up for the lost water, in part, by tapping into Nassau County’s aquifers, which, unlike upstate reservoirs, are replenished not by streams and rivers, but only by rainwater.
“To support a shutdown of the aqueduct and connection of the bypass, the city must implement a number of additional projects,” the city DEP’s website reads, including “interconnections to New Jersey and Nassau County, N.Y.” The city wants to begin drawing water from Nassau by 2020.
Long Island’s ancient aquifers are already threatened by overuse. According to the Long Island Water Conference, a consortium of private and public water suppliers, the Island’s roughly 2.8 million inhabitants draw 375 million gallons of water from the ground every day. That’s 13.7 trillion gallons of water per year –– the equivalent of 26 Lake Georges. And we’re using more water all the time.
Long Island cannot support New York City’s water needs, as it did once upon a time. From the late 1800s to the 1970s, Brooklyn drew water from across the South Shore, as far east as Massapequa. Its largest pumping station was a grand, redbrick, Romanesque-revival structure in Freeport called the Millburn Pumping Station.