Leading advocates for Long Island’s environment gathered at the Cold Spring Harbor Library on Saturday November 5 to learn about “Defending Long Island’s Water Supply.” Speakers included Mindy Germain, of Residents for More Beautiful Port Washington, Ron Busciolano of the US Geological Survey, Douglas Feldman of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and Dr. Sarah Meyland of the Center for Water Resources Management at NY Institute of Technology. The room was filled to overflowing with interested citizens. The water supply on Long Island is not unlimited, yet it is treated as if it were. Most people do not know that all the water on Long Island comes from a network of underground aguifers – whether it is water we use for drinking, or the water in our streams and ponds.
All speakers agreed that Long Island’s drinking water is fundamentally safe, however there are increasing challenges from pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, pharmaceutical and personal care products, dry cleaning fluids, and a lack of an overall, integrated monitoring system. As sea levels rise, and water withdrawals increase, wells are being subjected to salt water intrusion. Nassau and Suffolk County have different monitoring systems, and there are multiple water districts in Nassau County. The United States Geological Survey has been conducting monitoring island wide since the 1900’s, however, Nassau County has withdrawn their funding, so the USGS will no longer be monitoring in Nassau.
To address these and other issues, Water for Long Island is calling for the creation of an agency which would develop short-range and long-range water management plans and implement them. The agency would conduct scientific studies to increase our understanding of the aquifer system, and integrate the many studies and research that has been done or is ongoing. How much water is available for water to be withdrawn would be determined and regulated. An island wide groundwater model would be developed to analyze impacts to water supply. Reductions in water supply also impacts streams, wetlands and ponds. Stormwater management would be integrated with water resource management.
In New York State, water management agencies already exist for river based water resources that are used by many communities, including that are beyond New York borders. These include the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Compact, the Delaware River Basin Compact, and the Susquehanna River Basin Area. This agency would work collaboratively with local governments, Health Departments, water utilities and organizations to advance sound water practices. The creation of an island wide agency would put Long Island on the same level as these other areas of New York State, and more importantly, would represent the water interests of Long Island in regional situations. Clearly, there will be much more to be discussed regarding this important issue.