Study in Progress

Review of the New York City Watershed Protection Program

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Statement of Task

Since the 1990s, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) has implemented a comprehensive watershed protection program to protect the upstate watershed that supplies about 1 billion gallons of drinking water a day to over 9 million people in New York City and surrounding suburbs. The overall program includes numerous individual programs that target potential sources of contamination to the water supply, including agriculture, stormwater, wastewater, and changes in land use. The cumulative effects of the watershed protection program have allowed the City to avoid filtration of its Catskill/Delaware supply, which provides about 90% of the water supply. The NYC DEP has requested the advice of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine as it continues to implement the watershed protection program, which has evolved to respond to changing conditions, regulatory requirements, and emerging risks to the water supply.

An ad hoc committee of the National Academies will review and evaluate the NYC DEP's watershed protection program, with the goal of determining whether the current suite of individual programs is appropriate and adequate to comply with the Surface Water Treatment Rule into the future. Key questions include:

-- Are individual program elements (e.g., agriculture and stormwater best management practices, wastewater technologies, requirements for streamside buffers) based on the most relevant and up-to-date science?

-- Are the City's water quality monitoring and modeling, as well as the performance monitoring of individual measures, adequate to assess the effectiveness of the overall watershed protection program? How might they be improved?

-- How can operational controls be improved to protect water quality and comply with filtration avoidance determination requirements?

-- Can the various watershed protection components (e.g., operational controls, regulatory programs and their enforcement, voluntary programs, and partnership programs) be better balanced to be more effective and sustainable?

-- How might the watershed protection program evolve to account for future risks to the water supply, for example due to climate variability, invasive species, and regulatory trends?