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Do you swim, paddle or fish in the region? Show us where – and help shape water quality laws

Thank you for helping push for higher quality water standards in NYC waters

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Help document the recreational use of saline waters around NYC and along the Hudson.

You can help ensure stronger water quality standards for New York City’s waters by identifying where and how you use saline waters for recreational activities, from swimming, fishing, boating and kayaking to jet-skiing, wading and splashing around.

The state is now considering recreational uses as it determines whether to change the water quality standards for saline waters around New York City and Long Island, as well as in the Hudson River up to the Bear Mountain Bridge – and all tidal tributaries. To prevent any weakening of pollution protections, it is important to show the state how the waters are being used, along with other relevant water quality data.

Update, November 15:  Thanks to your action, Riverkeeper and partners have collected 475 entries on our interactive map representing thousands of waters users, from kayakers to fishers and swimmers. We are now preparing the data for submission to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

If you missed the deadline to submit information through the map, you can still let the DEC know how you use saline waters until November 28. The agency has set up a water use survey on its website. You can fill out the survey, or email a description of your use with supporting documentation, if any, to [email protected].gov. For more information, visit DEC’s water quality standards rulemaking website. Tap this link to fill out the Recreational Use Survey by November 28!


New York’s water quality standards are woefully out of date. In 2015, New York formally designated the waters in and around New York City for “primary contact” recreation waters – meaning that the quality of those waters must be made safe for recreational uses that involve ingestion or immersion in the water, such as swimming. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the state’s designations in May 2016, but disapproved of the state’s proposed water quality criteria, as they would not have been sufficiently protective of those uses. Such “water quality criteria” are the scientifically defensible characteristics necessary for the protection of aquatic life and human health that support designated uses; water quality criteria set the pollution limits for waterways.

Riverkeeper and partners, represented by the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic (PELC), then sued the EPA for its failure to fulfill its statutory obligation to promptly set protective water quality criteria for New York City’s waters following its 2016 disapproval of the state’s proposed criteria.

Starting in 2018, the state has attempted to abandon the recreational use designations altogether. It never sought approval for such an action from the EPA in the first place. As a result, the waters remain designated for primary contact recreational use, without the criteria needed to support that designation. Riverkeeper, again represented by PELC, sued to stop what amounts to an unsupportable regulatory rollback by New York State. To this day, neither EPA nor the state have set acceptable water quality criteria for New York City waters.

Now the state is proposing a new way to reset the uses of the city’s waters. To prevent relaxation of recreational use designations and corresponding pollution protections, it is important to document how, in reality, these waters are being used.

Your input is critical in helping to developing well-informed water quality protections for the future. You can add information anonymously or add your name. See the details on New York’s “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” process and the information sought by the state Department of Conservation here. All water quality data and information about the presence of fish and fish habitat are relevant and will be accepted.

Photo by Nathaniel Johnston

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