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December 14, 1998

Contact: Cathy DelliCarpini (718/595-6600)

New York City Water Supply Still Below Normal

Water Conservation Continues To Be Encouraged

In response to a worsening drought in the Delaware River Basin which effects one of the City's three reservoir systems, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Joel A. Miele Sr., P.E. today reminded New Yorkers to voluntarily save water. The City's overall water supply is still below normal but has not yet reached the point at which DEP would declare a Drought Watch, the first stage in the City's drought management plan. Should current dry weather patterns continue, however, a Drought Watch for New York City and Westchester County could be declared by late January.

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. The City's conservation reminder follows an announcement today by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) that dropping levels of water stored in various reservoirs in the Delaware River Basin warranted declaration of a Drought Warning, Stage 1. 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%).

"Although it is always prudent to conserve water, the dry weather pattern we are currently experiencing makes conservation even more important" Commissioner Miele noted, "it is also important to remember that we have not yet reached the point at which a Drought Watch, the first and least serious stage of the City's drought management plan, would be declared." He continued, "The purpose of our announcement today is to remind New Yorkers of the less than normal levels in our reservoirs and to encourage voluntary conservation measures."

Currently, the City's reservoirs are at 55% of capacity, roughly 19% percentage points below normal for this time of year. 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 this year has been averaging 1.20 billion gallons per day, well down from 1.45 billion gallons consumed in 1991 before several comprehensive water conservation measures were implemented by DEP including the installation of water meters and the replacement of 1.34 million older toilets with low-flow models by early 1997.

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 help-line, 718/DEP-HELP (718/337-4357).

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-saving kits to help save water and cut water bills. City residents can apply by calling Honeywell DMC at (718) 326-9426 to order a free kit, which includes water-saving showerheads and devices for toilets, faucet aerators, and leak inspection instructions and tools. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development also offers Free Water Saving Seminars; call (212) 863-8830 for information and to make a reservation.
  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 2-5 gallons.
  8. Install water-saving fixtures including 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