Protecting the Source

by Jeff L. Brown, Contributing Editor; Civil Engineering Magazine, ASCE World Headquarters, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Reston, VA.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 2000, Vol. 70, Issue 12, Pg. 50-55

Document Type: Feature article


The city of New York is engaged in a five-year, $1.5 billion effort to protect water quality in the upstate watersheds that are the source of its drinking water. Under the terms of a 1997 memorandum of agreement among watershed stakeholders, the city is implementing diverse watershed management projects including upgrading wastewater treatment plants, repairing septic systems, acquiring land, encouraging best management practices on farms, and many others. Also in 1997, on the basis of these efforts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted the city a five-year waiver, called a filtration avoidance determination, of its requirements that the city build a filtration plant for the Catskill and Delaware watersheds, which according to city estimates would cost $4 billion to $6 billion. The city has passed the halfway mark toward the 2002 deadline when the EPA will evaluate its progress and decide whether to renew the waiver. In a mid-course review released this year, the EPA pointed out two critical areas in which the city needed to improve: acquiring land around Kensico Reservoir, and upgrading non-city-owned wastewater treatment plants. The city remains confident that it can meet the deadline, but some questions remain whether watershed management alone can guarantee a safe water supply.

Subject Headings: Urban areas | Urban development | Watersheds | Municipal water | Wastewater treatment plants | Water quality | Environmental Protection Agency | Soil treatment | United States | New York | Delaware

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