Pictured Above: Long Island Water Conference Chairman Ty Fuller, a hydrogeologist, addressed the crowd at the kickoff.
While the quality of Long Island’s drinking water is often in the spotlight due to the high population density and industrial history of the land atop our sole-source drinking water aquifer, water quantity issues are also a major concern here.
The Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection (LICAP), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and stakeholders from all over Long Island in mid-May unveiled a long-term effort to encourage Long Islanders to conserve the sole source aquifer system that provides 100 percent of Long Island’s drinking water.
Despite high amounts of precipitation in 2018 and 2019, Long Island between 2011 and 2017 endured a multi-year stretch of extremely dry weather that negatively impacted aquifer levels.
Population growth (and resulting high water use) in areas of Long Island where aquifers are thinnest has also increased the threat for saltwater intrusion.
Excessive use of water—especially during the early-morning hours of the spring and summer lawn watering season—also puts extreme stress on existing water infrastructure, which may necessitate costly infrastructure projects simply to meet lawn watering demand.
“A great deal of attention has been focused on groundwater and surface water quality issues recently, and while that’s extremely important, the conservation of our aquifer system needs to be a focal point as well,” said LICAP Chair Jeffrey W. Szabo. “With this brand and infrastructure in place, and with dozens of stakeholder organizations already involved, we feel this will be just the beginning of a long-term effort to ensure the viability of our groundwater resources.”
The multi-platform campaign, titled “Our Water, Our Lives,” — including thematically-linked digital ads, social media pages, a website, and free merchandise for the public affixed with the campaign logo — kicked off at a May 16 open house at the Suffolk County Water Authority Education Center in Hauppauge.
“We have beneath our feet an incredible natural resource that provides drinking water for Long Islanders from Great Neck to Montauk, and it’s imperative that we engage with the public to make sure they use our water resources wisely,” said LICAP Vice Chair Paul Granger. “This comprehensive campaign will help ensure that Long Islanders are aware of the easy steps they can take to save water, save money and save our sole source aquifer.”
“For years, Suffolk County has been leading the state as we work to improve and protect our water, which includes the sole source of our drinking water—our aquifers,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “Water is the lifeblood of Long Island and I look forward to continuing to work together to preserve it for years to come.”
“Our island’s sustainability depends on a clean, reliable water supply,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Every Long Islander can help participate in the goal to save water by participating in water conservation efforts. Saving water doesn’t require any real effort, just small changes in our behavior. The vast majority of our wasted water is caused by leaks that go unrepaired and the improper watering of lawns. Saving a little water today can mean a more robust supply for tomorrow.”
“Our drinking water is our most precious resource, and we must not take it for granted when more than two billion people in the world lack access to safely managed drinking water services,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory.
LICAP, in conjunction with its second five-year term that began last year, created a subcommittee focused specifically on ways to conserve our underground aquifer system.
The creation of the subcommittee was in part inspired by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s goal to reduce peak water use on Long Island by 15 percent over the course of the next several years.
The subcommittee was charged with assessing and making recommendations regarding a wide range of conservation issues and initiatives, including the since-adopted recommendation to the SCWA Board to ban large tanker trucks from filling up with water from hydrants in Southold Town, which lies over a very shallow aquifer.
The subcommittee’s primary focus in its first year has been on the creation of a permanent water conservation brand and associated comprehensive media campaign, which led to the development of a conservation theme/logo, website, digital ad campaign, printed brochure and social media pages.
The initial campaign will focus on three conservation measures: encouraging the use of smart controllers/rain sensors and other water-saving technology to help residents water their lawns more efficiently; encouraging the use of EPA WaterSense products for indoor water savings; and, for those who choose not to use water-saving technology, encouraging the adoption of alternate-day lawn watering, which saves water and promotes healthy lawns, as watering less frequently promotes deeper root growth.
The website also includes a display featuring 10 easy ways for Long Islanders to save water, as well as information about our aquifer system and a pledge visitors can take to conserve water, among other features.