Record Water Use on Monday Stretches Limits of Public Water System

Long Island is ultra-crowded this summer as city residents escape the heat and the pandemic in New York, but this weekend’s heat added another stress to the island’s already stressed infrastructure — water use set an all-time record in the early hours of Monday morning, stressing the water system’s availability for first responders.

The Suffolk County Water Authority announced it hit its all-time high water pumping figure of 545,726 gallons-per-minute across its service territory at 5:35 a.m. Monday morning, breaking the previous per-minute record of 542,610 gallons-per-minute set in July of 2016.

Long Island is in the midst of a heat wave concurrent with a time in which many second homeowners have decamped on a semi-permanent basis to their summer homes, using water in the process as they wait out the Covid-19 pandemic.

Monday’s record water use occurred despite thunderstorms that dropped some rain across the region Monday morning.

Many residential and commercial sprinkler systems are set on automatic timers that don’t take into account natural precipitation, although these systems can be retrofit with rain sensors.

The Water Authority is urging commercial and residential customers to avoid irrigation in the early morning hours, and to water on an odd-even schedule, watering on even calendar dates if their street address is an even number, and on odd calendar dates if their street address is an odd number.

SCWA has sent emails and recorded phone messages to customers in recent weeks urging customers to take measures to reduce their water use to make sure there is sufficient supply for emergencies. Customers should adjust their irrigation controllers to water no more than every other day and avoid setting controllers to operate between peak pumping hours of 3 a.m. to 7 a.m.

“We need cooperation from our customers to make sure that firefighters have sufficient water pressure to battle fires and that hospitals have sufficient water pressure to take care of patients,” said Water Authority CEO Jeffrey Szabo. “We need people to get this message loud and clear—change your watering habits today and help to ensure there is a sufficient water supply for everyone.”

For more ideas about how to conserve water, SCWA customers are urged to go to

Riverhead Town, which has its own water district and aging infrastructure, has also urged residents to adopt odd/even irrigation schedules in recent weeks as well pumping neared capacity in late June.

The Riverhead Water District is also asking customers to avoid irrigation between 5 and 9 a.m. and between 5 and 9 p.m., urging that automatic sprinklers be set for the overnight hours between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Update July 20, 4:30 p.m.: Riverhead Town announced Monday afternoon that odd/even watering, and a prohibition on watering at all during the peak hours above, are now mandatory through Labor Day.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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