WHAT IS THE SOURCE?
Unlike most of the country, Long Island gets its drinking water from a system of aquifers, a naturally formed underground storage area that reaches a depth of 1,000 feet. Made up of huge layers of sand and gravel, the aquifers contain an estimated 90 trillion gallons of fresh water. Precipitation and melted ice trickle downward and replenish the aquifers.
As the rainwater travels through hundreds of feet of soil and closely packed sand, it is naturally filtered and cleansed of most impurities before reaching the aquifers. Unfortunately, unwanted chemicals that are carelessly dumped on the ground can also travel the same path into the aquifer. With more than three million residents living, conducting business and engaging in industrial activities directly above Long Island’s only water supply, instances of pollution can occur.
Groundwater protection regulations were practically nonexistent 30 to 50 years ago. Today, there are many government regulations including chemical and hazardous materials storage ordinances, zoning laws that prohibit a host of industries from locating within the “deep recharge” areas that feed the aquifer, tough waste water treatment requirements and many more.
THE WATER CYCLE
HOW SAFE IS OUR WATER?
Long Island’s public drinking water is regarded as one of the best in the nation, meeting and exceeding a long list of rigorous federal, state and local health standards. In fact, Long Island’s drinking water is more highly regulated than bottled water.
Water suppliers spend millions of dollars annually to test the water at independent laboratories throughout the year for more than 250 substances. The results are reported directly to the appropriate county health department, which also conducts regular, independent checks of its own. In addition to testing, Long Island water suppliers have already invested—and continue to invest—tens of millions of dollars in advanced treatment facilities and other infrastructure upgrades to ensure that water quality and system reliability remains high.
Federal and state environmental agencies and the state and county health departments have strengthened drinking water regulations tremendously in recent years. Additionally, technical advances in sophisticated testing equipment allow substances that are as tiny as one part-per-billion to be detected in the drinking water. That’s the equivalent to one second in 32 years!
Any water supply well that is discovered to exceed the rigorous drinking water quality standards must be removed from service and corrective measures taken before the well can be put back into service. When treatment is necessary, effective methods such as airstripping and activated carbon filtration are used to cleanse the water and remove unwanted substances before it is sent into the distribution system for consumption. Long Island residents can rest assured that the public water that flows from their faucets is one of the most highly regulated supplies in the United States and safe to drink.
HOW TO PROTECT OUR WATER
What can I do to save and protect the water supply?
Simple steps can be taken to ensure a plentiful clean supply for future generations.
Start a water conservation program
Check for and fix leaks.
Turn the water off when shaving and brushing your teeth.
Install low flow fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom.
Obey all lawn irrigation guidelines.
Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full.
Stop Throwing Out Pollutants
Dispose of hazardous household waste in an environmentally safe manner, according to local town government guidelines, most of which have drop-off dates and locations. Prevent items such as used motor oil and household chemicals from seeping into the aquifer by never placing them in the trash or dumping them down the drain, into the storm sewer or onto the ground.