GREAT NECK, N.Y. (PIX11) – Wednesday is World Water Day, a symbolic day for environmental activists on Long Island to announce water conservation plans that they say will save the future of the island for generations to come.
A first-of-its kind study by Seatuck Environmental Association and Greentree Foundation explains how reusing highly treated wastewater to irrigate golf courses, nurseries and sod farms could help the steadily declining water levels and water quality seen over the last 50 years. Reusing this water could save hundreds of millions of gallons a year in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to the environmental groups.
Long Island’s drinking water is pumped out of aquifers – the underground layer of rock saturated with water from precipitation – but the supply is being taken for additional purposes and not replenished enough.
Christopher Murphy is the superintendent of Great Neck Water Pollution Control District where the announcement of the report was made.
“As Long Islanders, we really have been truly blessed to have drinking water directly under our feet, and sometimes we forget how blessed we are and sadly, sometimes, we take advantage of that blessing,” Murphy said.
Instead of relying on the aquifers for other water-dependent purposes, The Long Island Water Reuse Roadmap & Action Plan explains how the highly treated wastewater from sewage treatment plants would be redirected for those water-dependent purposes instead of dumping the treated wastewater, which has nitrogen pollutants, into the Long Island Sound or Atlantic Ocean.
Their point is that wastewater is a resource and not a waste product that needs to be disposed of.
The study found four major categories where water reuse can be applied.
“[The] first one we looked at of course was irrigation,” said Stephen Hadjiyane, a partner at Cameron Engineering. “There [are] 140 golf courses on Long Island that are desperate for water.”
There are more than 48 public wastewater treatment plants on Long Island that were identified in this plan that could contribute to the conservation efforts. The Great Neck Water Pollution Control District is one of them.
John Turner is conservation policy advocate. “Let’s choose to reuse since twice is nice,” Turner said.
The speakers at the announcement believe these projects can revolutionize the way water is conserved.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director at Citizens Campaign, listed four ways it would do so.
“One: it’s going to save us money,” Esposito said. “Two: it prioritizes the aquifer water as drinking water. Three: it fights saltwater intrusion, and four: it will reduce nitrogen-loading into the marine environment.”
The groups say they have the vision, the plan and the commitment. What’s missing is funding. They also say they need established regulations from the state’s Department of Conservation to allow a pathway for water reuse.