standard “High-Efficiency Bathrooms,” Other Initiatives Launched To Conserve Water

Fort Hamilton High School (DEP)

Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge, one of the schools that received a “high-efficiency” upgrade (DEP)

Work has begun to upgrade 75 school buildings over the next 10 months with high-efficiency bathroom fixtures with a goal of reaching 500 buildings, and roughly 40,000 bathroom fixtures, by 2018, resulting in an estimated 4 million gallons of water conserved each school day.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Emily Lloyd announced the improvements Tuesday.

“The critical investments we are making today will help to ensure a reliable supply of high quality drinking water for New York City for decades to come,” said Commissioner Lloyd. “In addition, by using less water we are also helping to reduce our costs and the carbon footprint that is associated with treating the water prior to consumption and cleaning and disinfecting it after it’s used.”

Nearly 4,000 new, high-efficiency bathroom fixtures have already been installed at 28 public school buildings throughout the five boroughs which has resulted in an approximately 71 percent reduction in water use at each of the buildings, saving nearly half a million gallons of water daily.

A corresponding educational initiative helps students understand where NYC tap water comes from, and the importance of conservation.

Impending Shutdown of Leaking ‘Delaware Aqueduct’ For Repairs

A key to ensuring a continued supply of healthy drinking water for the city’s growing population is a project to repair the leaking Delaware Aqueduct, which currently supplies about half the city’s drinking water. DEP is funding the $50 million program as part of a larger effort to reduce citywide water consumption by five percent prior to the anticipated shutdown of the Aqueduct, which conveys roughly half of the city’s drinking water, for repairs in 2021. In addition to helping ensure the city has an adequate supply of healthy drinking water during the temporary shutdown of the Delaware Aqueduct, the five percent reduction in consumption will reduce the amount of electricity, chemicals, and other costs associated with operating the water system. It will also cut carbon emissions from the wastewater treatment process by more than 15,500 metric tons per year, the equivalent of removing 3,300 cars from the road or planting more than 400,000 trees and letting them grow for ten years.

DEP has begun building two 800 foot deep shafts that will be used to construct a 2.5-mile bypass tunnel around a portion of the Delaware Aqueduct that is leaking in Roseton in Orange County. The project will also include repair work to fix leaks in Wawarsing, in Ulster County, from the inside of the existing tunnel. The 2.5 mile bypass tunnel will run east from the Town of Newburgh in Orange County, under the Hudson River, to the Town of Wappinger in Dutchess County. In order to facilitate these repairs to the Aqueduct, the tunnel must be temporarily shut down between 2021 and 2022.

In preparation for the shutdown, DEP has developed a combination of conservation programs and supplemental supplies that will ensure an uninterrupted supply of water. The program was initially estimated to cost over $2 billion but through advances in the engineering and design of the bypass and the water supply projects to support the repair, the estimated cost has been reduced to approximately $1.5 billion. Demand reduction initiatives complement the more than $10 billion invested in New York City’s water supply infrastructure over the last decade.

Municipal Water Efficiency Program: Determining Sources of Further Conservation

As part of the larger water conservation initiative, DEP has developed the Municipal Water Efficiency Program to identify opportunities to conserve water at City-owned properties and facilities. As part of this program, DEP has already begun a partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to install activation buttons on spray showers at 400 playgrounds around the city that will save 1.5 million gallons of water a day.

To encourage water conservation in private properties, DEP has begun a voucher-based program to replace roughly 800,000 outdated residential toilets with high efficiency models. The new toilet rebate program will build on the success of a similar rebate program that ran from 1994 to 1997 and replaced 1.3 million toilets and reduced citywide water consumption by 90 million gallons per day. High-efficiency toilets use only 1.28 gallons of water per flush, compared to traditional toilets which can use as much as five gallons. As a result of those programs, the transition from frontage billing to metered billing, and the roll out of Automated Meter Readers and real-time feedback about water consumption, overall water use in the city has declined from over 1.5 billion gallons a day in 1980 to 1.1 billion gallons a day at present, even though the City’s population grew from just over 7.1 million to 8.4 million in the same period.