Newsletter Sign-up Printer Friendly Format Translate This Page Text Size Small Medium Large


November 7, 2001

Contact: Geoff Ryan (718/595-6600)

New York City Water Supply Below Normal

Water Conservation Encouraged

In recent weeks, both the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) have declared drought alerts in parts of the watersheds that feed New York City's reservoirs. DEC has issued a "Drought Watch" for 13 counties in southeastern New York, including the eight watershed counties of the City's Water Supply. DRBC issued a "Drought Watch," followed by a "Drought Warning," that relates to three major reservoirs of the City's supply system in Sullivan and Delaware counties.

"While New York City's reservoir system has not yet reached Drought Watch level, the reservoirs are very low and we are asking consumers to save water voluntarily," said DEP Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E. "If the current dry weather patterns continue, a Drought Watch for New York City and Westchester County could be declared in December. Although it is always prudent to conserve water, the dry conditions we have been experiencing make conservation even more important."

Currently, the City's reservoirs are at 53% of capacity, roughly 16% percentage points below the normal level of 69% for this date. The low water levels are attributed to below average rainfall in the City's nearly 2,000-square-mile watershed for the last several months. Daily water use in the City has been averaging about1.2 billion gallons per day, well down from 1.45 billion gallons consumed in 1991. The dramatic reduction in consumption is attributable to several comprehensive water conservation measures implemented in the City and by DEP over the last ten years, including the installation of water meters and of nearly 1.7 million low-flow toilets and other plumbing fixtures. Without those conservation measures, the City would have declared a Drought Watch several weeks ago.

According to the City's drought management plan, a Drought Watch is declared when there is less than a fifty percent chance that the City's reservoirs will be full by June 1, the start of the water year. That determination is reached through careful analyses of the historic records of reservoir levels and precipitation.

Delaware River Basin water resources include the City's Pepacton, Cannonsville and Neversink Reservoirs, which provide roughly half of New York City's water supply. In addition to water from these reservoirs, the balance of the City's drinking water comes from Catskill area reservoirs (40%) and from the Croton water system (10%).

Commissioner Miele is urging residents and businesses to practice voluntary water conservation to help extend the current water supply. Simple tips for conserving water include operating dishwashers and washing machines only when full, taking shorter showers or shallow baths, and sweeping sidewalks clean instead of using a water hose. Other important conservation measures include fixing faucet leaks, which can waste hundreds of gallons of water every week, and reporting illegally opened hydrants to DEP's 24-hour helpline, 718/DEP-HELP (718/337-4357). New Yorkers may read more about water conservation and the City's water supply on-line at

Water Saving Tips

1. Report open fire hydrants and street leaks to DEP's 24-hour helpline, 718/DEP-HELP. An open hydrant can waste one million gallons of drinking water per day.

2. Take advantage of DEP's free water survey to help save water and cut water bills in residential and commercial buildings. To apply City residents can call 718/DEP-HELP.

3. Take shorter showers or fill the tub only halfway and save water.

4. Don't run the tap while shaving or brushing your teeth.

5. Fix leaks. Leaky faucets alone can waste up to 1,000 gallons each week.

6. Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full. Or use short cycles if available.

7. Don't use the toilet as a wastebasket. Each unnecessary flush can waste 1.6 to 5 gallons.

8. Install water-saving fixtures including toilets, showerheads and faucet aerators.

9. Sweep driveways and sidewalks clean rather than washing them down with a hose.

10. For more water saving ideas visit DEP's Web site at


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600