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New York State goes big on clean water in budget

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have finalized a $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act as part of the initial budget for the current fiscal year beginning April 1 – a huge boost to our efforts to stop sewage overflows and protect drinking water at its source.

Paul Gallay, President and Riverkeeper, said:

“After decades of underinvestment, New York is finally doing what’s needed to fix its aging water infrastructure. New Yorkers from Montauk to Buffalo will soon have cleaner drinking water and healthier waterways to visit and enjoy, as a result. Riverkeeper thanks Governor Andrew M. Cuomo the New York State Legislature and for making clean water a priority in this budget.”

Dan Shapley, Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Program Director, said:

We expect when we turn on the tap, the water will run clean. We expect when our kids play in neighborhood streams, they won’t get sick. The investments that we’ll make thanks to this budget are urgently needed to meet those basic expectations. We know from our own tests of water quality in the Hudson River and its tributaries, where water is too often unsafe for swimming, and from the drinking water crises facing communities like Newburgh, how urgent the needs are. Governor Cuomo and the Legislature have our thanks for going big on clean water.”

We encourage you to contact Governor Cuomo and your state Assembly and Senate members to thank them for reaching agreement on the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, which is to be voted on as part of the so-called “extender” bill Monday, April 3. Thanks in part to the advocacy of Riverkeeper, our members, and a broad coalition of like-minded organizations, the final investment was 25% greater than initially proposed, and will provide significant funding for several Riverkeeper priorities, including:

Stopping sewage leaks and overflows

As if on cue, rain came in the last stages of budget negotiations, resulting in dozens of sewage overflows into the Hudson River and its tributaries, as a result of old and inadequate sewers. The budget builds on the successful Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015, by adding more than $1 billion for improving water infrastructure statewide. We’ve been making the case for this kind of robust investment since our water quality sampling program began in 2006, and our work to pass the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Law in 2012 helped shine a bright light on the impact of sewer failures. We’ll keep up our advocacy, since the state faces an $80 billion need for investments over the next 20 years.

Protecting drinking water at its source

The Clean Water Infrastructure Act includes more than $100 million for land acquisition to support protecting drinking water at its source, and hundreds of millions for other water quality improvement projects. These include several new categories of funding that will help ensure clean drinking water by protecting and restoring the watersheds on which public reservoirs or wells rely. Since Newburgh’s primary reservoir was lost to a toxic contaminant, we have advocated for applying lessons from the world-renowned effort to protect New York City’s drinking water supply across the state, with a multi-faceted approach that includes land conservation, green infrastructure, stream restoration and other strategies.

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