Water for Long Island

Drought Watch Announcements

The US Geological Survey (USGS) resumed their data collection activities in Nassau County in the spring of 2016. Their funding is continued until October 2017 by Nassau County.  2017 began with Long Island still experiencing a decline in annual rainfall: one of the largest declines in nearly 15 years.  From September 2015 to October 2016, rainfall was 60% below normal. In the summer 2016, Long Island and New York State were officially in a Drought Watch.  Rainfall in 2016 was 11 inches below average and summer temperatures were unusually high.  In late November 2016, annual rainfall was 28.4 inches for the year when it should have been approximately 39.5 inches.  Rainfall in April 2017 has returned to normal averages for the year.  October 2017 is on track to be the warmest October on record.

Essential Information About Long Island's

Aquifer Systems

    1.    The groundwater stored in the aquifers beneath Long Island is a public resource that must be properly managed and continually monitored in order to assure that the public's health, safety, and welfare is protected and that the resource itself is preserved in the most sustainable manner possible.  Presently, this level of attention is not being given to the groundwater.


   2.  Unlimited drinking water is not guaranteed to the residents of Long Island.  Unlike other parts of New York State and New York City, the residents of Long Island do not have access to drinkable surface water, and  the New York City water supply is not an option for meeting future water needs, especially for Nassau County.  


   3.    In some parts of Nassau County, water withdrawals have exceeded sustainable levels of pumpage for some years.  Since the early 1990's, total water loss from the aquifer systems beneath Nassau County has regularly exceeded annual recharge.  This practice results in problems such as saltwater intrusion, the reduced stream flow, and the spread of contamination plumes into deeper levels of the aquifers where most drinking water is withdrawn. 


   4.  In 2017, Long Island still has the largest number of state and federal Superfund sites, 258,  in New York State.  Nassau County has the largest concentration of contaminated sites of any county in New York State with over 154 listed sites.  Remediation of these sites  is lagging years behind what is acceptable.  Many sites have been known of for decades and progress on cleanup is slow.  Each year that a site fails to be cleaned up, the groundwater plumes can spread further and deeper from the original source, polluting millions of gallons of additional groundwater.  Timely attention to these sites is grossly inadequate.  Even when the land at a contaminated site is cleaned up, the contaminated groundwater plume caused by the site may be left in place, without cleanup.  The plume may then continue to spread through the groundwater system.  During clean up operations, the cleaned groundwater may not always be returned to the aquifer system.  Instead, it is discharged as wastewater or to coastal waters and does not contribute to groundwater recharge.  This needs to change. 


    5.  In Suffolk County, due to the absence of centralized sewering (only 25% of Suffolk is sewered), untreated or poorly treated sewage (residential and commercial) is being discharged back into the aquifers.  This practice is leading to the growing contamination of shallow groundwater, some of which flows quickly into coastal waters, adding to poor coastal water quality there too.  


    6.  The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is the state agency responsible for protecting the quality and quantity of Long Island's groundwater supply.  Presently, the agency is unable to meet the needs of Long Island or to provide full scale oversight of this essential resource.  


    7.  The county health departments are responsible for the drinking water quality delivered by water suppliers, but they cannot assume the DEC's responsibilities for overall aquifer management.  


    8.  There are approximately 65 major public water suppliers on Long Island.  Their expertise is centered on drinking water production and delivery to the public.  It does not extend to regional groundwater management.  


    9.  Unlike 70% of New York State, Long Island has no groundwater resource manager with a full-time team of water experts dedicated to the constant monitoring, research and assessment of its groundwater and sole source aquifer system.  

10.  Groundwater withdrawals for Nassau County have bee reported by NY State to be at least 15% above what the aquifers can sustainablly provide.  This condition has existed for nearly two decades. In January 2017, the NYS DEC directed all public water suppliers on Long Island to reduce water withdrawals by 15% within three years. This is a very positive step bringing water waste under control.