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New York establishes new drinking water protection program

New York State has embraced a top Riverkeeper priority by establishing a new program to protect public drinking water sources from contamination. Take action by thanking Gov. Cuomo and urging him to go big on clean water investments in the next state budget.

Drinking Water Protection

Photo: Jeff Turner, CC/Flickr


New York State has created an important new program to help communities protect drinking water at its source, one of Riverkeeper’s top goals.

The new program will help municipalities update risk assessments to define the highest priority actions, and develop plans to reduce and eliminate high-priority risks to drinking water quality. In the first phase of the program, the state will pay the full costs for 30 communities to develop these plans collaboratively with local stakeholders. Communities have until Feb. 15 to apply.

Riverkeeper served as a member of the advisory group that helped draft the Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2). The state initiative also follows Riverkeeper’s call following Newburgh’s drinking water crisis, in 2016, for comprehensive protection of public drinking water sources.

While the robust programs to protect New York City’s reservoirs are world renowned, many smaller cities, villages and towns lack adequate programs to ensure their drinking water supplies remain free of contamination. As crises in Newburgh and elsewhere have shown, the costs – to public health and public budgets – of treating water after it’s contaminated are steep. Drinking Water Source Protection is a proactive strategy for preventing contamination before it happens.

Protecting water quality at its source involves watershed-based projects such as eliminating or treating pollution sources, protecting or restoring forested buffers along streams that naturally filter water, and reducing stormwater runoff from streets and farms, among other strategies.

Riverkeeper has developed a Scorecard that can help communities assess their need to update source water protection plans, and identify priorities. The Scorecard has been used by the Hudson River Drinking Water Intermunicipal Council (known as the Hudson 7) and the Saw Kill Watershed Community to help define local priorities for protecting sources of public drinking water.

The new state Drinking Water Source Protection Program will also help prioritize the $110 million available as part of the landmark 2017 Clean Water Infrastructure Act for land conservation to protect drinking water supplies. Locally, projects to protect water supplies serving Newburgh, Middletown, Troy, Schenectady and other Hudson River Watershed communities have so far been funded.

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