News > News > Water Quality > Riverkeeper Report: Hudson River Watershed needs $4.8 billion clean water investment

Riverkeeper Report: Hudson River Watershed needs $4.8 billion clean water investment

New analysis of 8,200 water samples finds 21% of Hudson River Estuary samples fail to meet safe swimming guidelines

Despite progress improving water quality, combined sewer overflows, aging infrastructure, and some tributaries remain pollution sources

Riverkeeper joined a delegation to Washington, D.C., to urge doubling of federal investment in water infrastructure nationwide, to $4.6 billion

Ossining, N.Y. – In a new report, Riverkeeper has released a fresh analysis of water quality data, showing that 21 percent of Hudson River Estuary samples failed to meet federal safe-swimming guidelines. To improve water quality in the Hudson River and its tributaries, communities have documented a need for wastewater infrastructure improvement projects estimated to cost $4.8 billion.

The Hudson River flows 315 miles from the Adirondack Mountains to New York Harbor. The lower 153 miles, from Troy to New York Harbor, it is an estuary, tidally influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. The river’s watershed – including smaller creeks and rivers that flow into the Hudson, and the land area they drain – covers roughly a quarter of New York State, as well as parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont.

“While most parts of the Hudson River Estuary are safe for swimming on most days, persistent water quality problems continue to challenge our river and its tributaries. We’ve put a price tag on this challenge to highlight the critical importance of New York State’s landmark clean water investments, and to call for renewed investments by the federal government,” said Dan Shapley, Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Program Director.

Riverkeeper released the report after hand-delivering it to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday as part of a delegation led by the Clean Water/Jobs Coalition. The Coalition, which is made up of construction, labor and environmental groups, is supporting a bipartisan proposal endorsed by 70 members of the House of Representatives to double the State Revolving Loan Funds. These Funds are matched with grants from New York State’s landmark Water Infrastructure Improvement Act and Clean Water Infrastructure Act to finance projects. The proposal calls for a $2.8 billion investment nationwide in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and a $1.8 billion investment nationwide in the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund ($4.6 billion total). As the state with the largest documented need in investments in water infrastructure – estimated to exceed $80 billion over the next 20 years – New York has received the largest share of this annual federal investment.

“Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have made the biggest commitment to clean water in a generation, with the passage of the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act in 2015 and the Clean Water Infrastructure Act in 2017,” Shapley said. “We are calling on the federal government to match the state investments, so we can accelerate the pace of water quality improvements.”

The report, “How’s the Water? Hudson River Water Quality and Water Infrastructure,” is a first-of-its-kind look at both water quality and infrastructure needs along the entire 155-mile length of the Hudson River Estuary and in several of its tributaries.

The water quality data in the report is based on 8,200 samples gathered since 2008 by Riverkeeper, CUNY Queens College and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. WIth the help of more than 175 individuals and dozens of partner organizations, Riverkeeper organizes the largest community science project of its kind to monitor water quality from more than 440 locations each month. The infrastructure data in the report is based on data gathered by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and its Hudson River Estuary Program about the age and extent of wastewater infrastructure, and NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation data about the estimated cost of projects proposed by communities to improve that infrastructure.

The report examines wastewater infrastructure needs in different parts of the Hudson River and its tributaries, including:

• $3.4 billion in New York City

• $715 million in the Hudson River Estuary watershed (the tidal portion of the river, north of New York City and south of the Troy dam, including its tributaries)

• $573 million in the Mohawk River watershed (the largest tributary of the Hudson River, including its tributaries)

• $100 million in the Upper Hudson River watershed (the river north of the Troy dam, including its tributaries)

In addition to investments in water infrastructure, the report highlights the need to maintain and increase investments in both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the water protection programs they administer. President Donald Trump has proposed drastic cuts to the EPA, which among other things could jeopardize one in three state jobs devoted to implementing clean water programs. At the state level, budget cuts and freezes have left the DEC’s Division of Water with roughly 100 fewer staff members than 25 years ago.

Other key findings:

• Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) remain significant causes of water quality problems. Outside of New York City, 16 communities in the Hudson River Watershed rely at least in part on combined sewers that carry both stormwater and sewage, and overflow into the Hudson or its tributaries at more than 210 discharge points when it rains. Roughly another 450 CSOs are found in New York City.

• Aging infrastructure threatens to reverse water quality improvements made over the last generation. Across the Hudson River Estuary Watershed more than half of the 1,500 miles of inventoried sewer pipes are 60 years or older; and one in four wastewater treatment plants that discharge directly to the Hudson River are at risk of inundation from sea-level rise, storm-surge flooding, or both.

• Tributaries – the smaller rivers and creeks that flow into the Hudson – are often sources of contamination to the estuary. The report details significant differences in both water quality and wastewater infrastructure needs in several of these tributaries, including the Catskill, Esopus, Quassaick, Rondout, Roeliff Jansen Kill, Saw Kill, and Sparkill creeks, and the Saw Mill and Wallkill rivers.

Click here to read the report.

Contact: Leah Rae, lrae@riverkeeper.org, (914) 478-4501 ext. 238

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Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. Riverkeeper has helped to establish globally recognized standards for waterway and watershed protection and serves as the model and mentor for the growing Waterkeeper movement that includes more than 300 Keeper programs across the country and around the globe.

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