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DEC, DOH announce new initiative to protect drinking water sources

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Mon, May 3rd 2021 04:55 pm

State helps municipalities develop long-term protection programs for public drinking water supply sources

The state departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health (DOH) announced a new initiative to assist municipalities with assessing and supporting drinking water source protection programs. As part of the Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2), up to 40 volunteer communities will work with technical assistance partners to develop programs that proactively protect public drinking water supplies. DWSP2 is a multiagency initiative led by DEC and DOH, in collaboration with the departments of Agriculture and Markets and State.

“The Drinking Water Source Protection Program empowers communities to protect their sources of public drinking water, ensuring good water quality and protecting public health,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “This is the first phase in an effort that will eventually benefit hundreds of communities across the state and advance the state’s commitment to protecting water quality and providing safe drinking water for all New Yorkers.” 

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Protecting New York's source waters is paramount to ensuring access to quality drinking water statewide. This program recognizes the need to update outdated assessments and focus on creating and implementing modernized protection plans while providing cost-free technical assistance to help communities achieve that goal." 

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Drinking Water Source Protection Program is a great way for all New Yorkers, including our farmers, to continue to lead the nation in environmental stewardship efforts. Our department’s source water buffer program, agricultural environmental management program, and more have long worked to protect sources of public drinking water and enhance water quality protection on agricultural lands, and I’m excited that DWSP2 will bring these great programs to more municipalities, with the help of the statewide soil and water conservation districts. This will ensure that great care continues to be taken for our waterways.”

Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “New York is home to amazing natural surface and groundwater resources that are critical to the health and economy of our local communities and the state. This program creates a path forward to protecting New York’s drinking water resources by providing much-needed technical and financial assistance to communities. The Department of State is proud to collaborate with our sister agencies as we continue to work with local governments to assess water quality and establish an actionable strategy to ensure that all residents have access to clean drinking water.” 

New York State Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, “Protecting our state’s drinking water supplies is an essential part of safeguarding New Yorkers’ health and environment that also benefits communities’ pursuit of future economic opportunities. My team at OGS is pleased to be working with our state agency partners by helping local municipalities evaluate the quality of their drinking water sources.” 

DWSP2 is led by DEC and DOH to assist municipalities with proactively protecting drinking water sources, benefiting both public health and the environment. New York state sought volunteer communities to work with a technical assistance provider, at no cost to the participating communities, to help develop and initiate implementation of each community’s unique drinking water source protection program. Up to 40 volunteer communities, available on the DEC website here, are being matched with technical assistance providers, including state-selected environmental consultants, regional planning boards, the New York Rural Water Association, and DEC and DOH experts. DEC and DOH are currently reaching out to participating DWSP2 communities prior to work commencing. 

To assist communities, New York state released a draft assistance guide to develop drinking water source protection plans, “A Framework for Creating a Drinking Water Source Protection Program Plan.” Technical assistance providers will use the framework to help each municipality create and implement a DWSP2 that addresses local needs. The framework is currently in a field-testing stage. Community participation and feedback will be used as the document is finalized. 

In addition to the development of a program, each community will initiate implementation activities focused on preventing pollution of source waters and minimizing their effects when it does occur. Municipalities have many tools available to reduce the likelihood of pollutants reaching the source water area for their public water supply. For example, a municipality may:

√ Work with a landowner to put an easement, or agreement, on a piece of land, or purchase a property that is near drinking water supplies;

√ Make use of available state and federal funding, programs, and other resources;

√ Establish a protective buffer or develop and implement local protective zoning around their source that controls activities or land uses that can threaten the water supply; 

√ Look at existing possible threats and conduct activities to address that specific threat, such as reducing stormwater runoff, increasing inspections of their source water area, and ensuring good management methods are followed; and 

√ Conduct education campaigns for their citizens to help them understand their part in protecting the supply. 

Supported by the state's Environmental Protection Fund, DWSP2 supports the protection of water quality and public drinking water across the state through the employment of technical assistance providers. Presently, $3 million has been dedicated to hiring two consulting firms and a portion of $2 million of the 604(b)-grant program has been allocated to regional planning boards, all for assisting volunteer communities with creating and implementing their source water programs.

New York is increasing investments for clean water infrastructure projects, including the state's $4 billion commitment to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean water. 

Communities interested in the DWSP2 can learn more on DEC’s website at https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/115250.html or email [email protected].

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