“Water reuse has been increasingly recognized as an essential component in effective
water resource management plans,” says the “Long Island Water Reuse Road Map & Action
Plan” unveiled last week. “The United Nations formally acknowledged the importance of water
reuse in 2017,” it adds.
“The benefits of water reuse have long been recognized and embraced in other parts of
the world,” it continues. And now in the United States, “approximately 2.6 billion gallons of
water is reused daily.”
But in New York State, “large-scale water reuse projects have been limited. There are a
few projects in upstate New York and one on Long Island,” the “Riverhead reuse project” which
started in 2016 “to redirect highly treated wastewater, as much as 260,000 gallons per day” from
the Riverhead Sewage Treatment Plant to “irrigate the nearby Indian Island County Golf Course”
instead of, as had been the practice, dumping it into Flanders Bay.
“Reusing water, for some other valuable purpose, provides numerous benefits,” the
“Long Island Water Reuse Road Map & Action Plan” goes on. “These include protecting public
wells and water supplies from salt water intrusion.” It calls for highly treated wastewater to be
used for a variety of purposes here with additional irrigation of golf courses but also of sod farms
and greenhouses, lawns and fields at educational and commercial sites and—highly
important—to deal with “over-pumping.”
Indeed, a lesson for all of Long Island is how Brooklyn—on Long Island’s western
end—lost its potable water supply more than a century ago: by over-pumping and consequent saltwater intrusion, along with pollution, notes John Turner, senior conservation policy advocate at the Seatuck Environmental Association.
So, Brooklyn began getting its water from reservoirs built upstate. There has been talk in
recent years of Nassau County buying water from those New York City-owned reservoirs. But
they are near capacity, says Turner, so the city “has not been welcoming Nassau County withopen arms.”
For Nassau and Suffolk Counties water reuse is critical.
The “Long Island Water Reuse Road Map & Action Plan” was presented this week at an
event at the treatment facility of the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District in Nassau
County. Nassau is a case study of how the Brooklyn lesson has not been learned. In Nassau,
which is 85% sewered, its sewage treatment plants dump wastewater through outfall pipes into
nearby waterways and the Atlantic Ocean and Long Island Sound—and as a result Nassau’s
water table is dropping.
An announcement for the event said that it “serves as a kick-off for a new way of
thinking that could revolutionize the way in which our community protects its most precious
The “Long Island Water Reuse Road Map & Action Plan” charting a course for Long
Island to reuse water from its underground water supply, its “sole source” of potable water, was
created by Islip-based Seatuck working with the Greentree Foundation and Cameron
Engineering & Associates, and a Water Reuse Technical Working Group of 28 members.
Suffolk County is about 25% sewered. Some water treatment plants in Suffolk recharge
treated wastewater into the ground but plants also do what Nassau has been doing, sending
wastewater out to adjacent waters or the ocean or Long Island Sound through outfall pipes.
There has been action through the years on pollutants in the water supply, on quality of
drinking water, in Nassau and Suffolk. There must be a parallel emphasis on quantity.
“Major Action Plan Recommendations” in the new plan, include: “Develop Water Reuse
Regulations/Guidelines…Convene a Long Island Water Reuse Workgroup to develop and
implement strategies…Conduct engineering studies on the most feasible projects…Engage Long
Island Golf Course Association in plan development…”
The “Water Reuse Technical Working Group” for the plan included: Anthony Caniano,
hydrologist at the Suffolk County Department of Health Services; Dr. Christopher Gobler of the
Stony Brook University School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences; Bill Zalakar, president of
the Long Island Farm Bureau; Chris Class, marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy; Joseph
Gardner, president of the Long Island Golf Course Superintendent’s Association; Christopher
Schubert, program development specialist at the New York Water Science Center; Adrienne
Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Suffolk County Public
Works Supervisor Madhav Sathe and Deputy Suffolk County Executive Peter Scully.
Projects for water reuse considered in the Town of Huntington in the plan include at: Kurt
Weiss Greenhouses in Melville; White Post Farms in Melville; Deckers and Van Cott Nurseries
in Greenlawn; Northport High School and Harborfields High School in Greenlawn; Holmes
Farms in Huntington; and Del Vino Vineyard in Northport.
For more information on the plan visit https://seatuck.org/water-reuse/