Earth Matters: What a regional aquifer management entity can do for Long Island

The Island Now

Long Island’s sole source aquifer system is a public resource that must be preserved and managed for the public’s welfare and benefit, not exploited or impaired for private gain.

Long Island’s potable water is a very limited resource. Unlike other New York State residents, Long Islanders do not have access to potable surface waters. New York City water is not an option for meeting Long Island’s potable water requirements.

In many areas, current water withdrawals are approaching annual recharge. Net annual water loss from the aquifers could exceed recharge and represents an unsustainable practice.

During the last two decades or more, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has not used the full array of legal and administrative tools available to it to assert effective groundwater oversight.

Groundwater monitoring for quality and quantity has diminished and regular reporting on aquifer conditions is not provided. In addition, its annual budget and groundwater-related staff are not sufficient to meet the needs of the region.

Contaminated site remediation is inadequate and slow.

County Health Departments oversee drinking water quality delivered by water suppliers, permit septic systems, and regulate underground injections and chemical storage. They participate in Superfund site investigations and perform important oversight related to water supply but do not manage the aquifer system.

County health departments frequently work independently of one another and exhibit limited coordination with each other when considering effects on the entire aquifer system.

Unlike the other highly populated areas of New York State, Long Island has no entity dedicated to the management of all aspects of its aquifer system and water resources.

Long Island water suppliers currently provide water production, treatment and delivery to Long Island residents. They should continue to effectuate this important role.

Immediate management and supervision of Long Island’s groundwater is essential for sustainability.

Long Island’s groundwater is stored in the aquifer system, the sole source of drinking water for 2.8 million residents. It must be supervised and managed scientifically.

Supervision and Scientific Management means:
1. Using independent, on-going, uninterrupted, comprehensive, and consistent data collection, modeling, studies, and related research projects, such as those performed by the USGS, for the entire aquifer system.
2. Planning and proactively striving for sustainability.
3. Overseeing water allocation through the well-permit system using clear scientific principles and criteria for water withdrawals throughout the aquifer system.
4. Protecting the aquifer system and the water it avails Long Island as a limited and vulnerable resource.
5. Using the latest scientific information to establish and routinely update a system-wide water budget and sub-regional budgets.
6. Ensuring sustainability using a managed yield approach.
7. Develop a detailed hydrologic understanding of aquifer processes, conditions, and changes in both groundwater quantity and quality; especially where saltwater intrusion is a risk.

A single Regional Aquifer Management Entity, serving both Nassau and Suffolk counties, is essential for protecting the Long Island aquifer system and managing its water supply on a scientific basis, using a full-time staff of hydrologists and water managers.

Groundwater and surface water are interrelated, requiring effective planning. Effective planning must include:
1. Anticipated effects of climate change, usage, groundwater levels, pollution, effects of groundwater on streams, rivers, bays, etc.
2. Anticipated effects of sea level rise as saltwater intrusion.
3. Comprehensive remediation of VOCs, toxic plumes and radionuclides.
4. Comprehensive reduction in the use and release of pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and household and personal care products, etc. into the environment.
5. The support of research on innovative technologies to treat domestic wastewater and reduce nitrate pollution.

The Long Island Regional Aquifer Management Entity will take on the responsibility of managing Long Island’s groundwater, thereby freeing the DEC to focus its expertise on its primary goals associated with surface water resources. The RAME will benefit the DEC by sharing technical and investigative services. Similar Entities like Water Compacts routinely assume DEC responsibilities for water management.

Why not on Long Island?

Effective management of the aquifers requires oversight, compliance and enforcement. The Long Island Regional Aquifer Management Entity will:
1. Partner with DEC to ensure compliance and enforcement.
2. Collaborate with NYSDEC and underwrite its activities in compliance and enforcement efforts affecting groundwater; thereby, enhancing the implementation of state policies and regulations.

Essential Actions that the RAME will undertake include:
1. Develop and implement a comprehensive aquifer protection and groundwater management plan.
2. Implement the recommendations of independent, professional and scientific studies.
3. Model the aquifer system to study water quality, quantity and groundwater flow.
4. Assess the effects of human activity, pollution trends, and climate change.
5. Defend and protect Long Island’s water against outside threats.
6. Implement policies to reduce contamination and waste of Long Island’s waters.
7. Foster coordination and cooperation among both counties, water companies, civic and environmental organizations, researchers, and other groups striving to remediate existing groundwater problems and likewise working to obviate future resource crises.

Conflicts of interest must either be avoided or reconciled. In addition, the public demands transparency and accountability. As part of its inherent structure, the RAME will resolve conflict; enhance transparency; and promote accountability.

A Long Island Regional Aquifer Management Entity will provide benefits and advantages, including:
1. Technical expertise for augmenting remediation of contaminated groundwater.
2. Improvements in water conservation; thereby, safeguarding both its quality and quantity.
3. Protecting the health, safety, welfare and quality of life of Long Island residents.
4. No increase in state or local taxes.
5. Educating the public on water conservation, including pollution and waste prevention.

The Long Island Regional Aquifer Management Entity will:
1. Be founded on scientific and professional groundwater management expertise.
2. Provide proactive, comprehensive oversight of the entire Long Island groundwater supply.
3. Be self-supporting and not dependent upon any level of government for funding.

Information provided by Water For Long Island (

Share this Article