New Yorkers depend on water for nearly everything - from drinking and cooking, to fishing and swimming, to washing dishes. In a state with nearly 1,850 miles of coastline, thousands of lakes, rivers and bays, and two of the last municipal drinking water supplies in the nation that don’t require filtration (NYC and Syracuse), protecting our water resources is critical to New York's economy, environment, and health.
In celebration of all that water provides for us, the Metropolitan Water Alliance (MWA) is hosting the 4th annual City of Water Day festival this Saturday, July 16 at Governors Island, NYC and Liberty State Park, NJ. NRDC is committed to preserving and revitalizing our waters and will be represented at the festival on Governor’s Island. We’ll be celebrating our precious resource and educating folks on some of the most critical issues facing New York’s water today.
Despite several decades of progress, New York’s waterways are still plagued by widespread pollution. Here’s glimpse of a few big problems:
- Billions of gallons of raw sewage mixed with polluted runoff enter our waterways each year, when rain storms (as little as 1/10th of an inch!) overwhelm aging sewer systems. These events, called “combined sewer overflows,” are the leading cause of pollution in many of our rivers and bays.
- Chemicals called PCBs still pollute the Hudson River, nearly 40 years after General Electric dumped them there -- making fish unsafe to eat in a 200 mile stretch, from north of Albany to the tip of Manhattan. Efforts to clean up these toxins – which have been linked to cancer and developmental problems in humans – are underway.
- Many of our beaches continue to suffer from poor water quality and bacterial pollution after a rainfall, putting swimmers at risk. In 2010, 9 percent of water quality samples at New York beaches failed to meet federal health standards for bacteria, and water pollution accounted for nearly 650 days of closures and advisories at NY and NJ coastal beaches.
- Proposed natural gas drilling threatens precious drinking water. Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) has been linked to contaminated drinking water around the country – especially in neighboring Pennsylvania, the poster-child for drilling gone wrong. The gas industry now has its sights set on New York.
NRDC is focused on implementing solutions to these problems – including green infrastructure improvements like green roofs, roadside plantings, and permeable pavement that catch dirty stormwater runoff. We’re also fighting for strong rules to control polluted runoff statewide, and partnering with coalition groups to clean up and preserve Jamaica Bay and other ecological jewels.
At the same time, NRDC is working to prevent New York from making the same mistakes other states have made with fracking. Our precious drinking water supplies must be preserved, and drilling should not be allowed to move forward anywhere in the state unless it can be demonstrated that our health and environment are being protected to the maximum extent. While the state is proposing to place New York City’s and Syracuse’s unfiltered water supplies off-limits to drilling, public and private drinking water supplies must be safeguarded before any new drills are allowed to break ground.
City of Water Day is a free event and runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be plenty of boating, rowing, and fishing activities, food and live music, as well as arts and crafts for kids. If you’re curious about issues facing New York water or looking to spend some time outside, stop by the City of Water Day and visit our table.
Don’t forget to bring along some of New York’s clean drinking water!