How’s New York City’s water supply holding up during this period of concern about low rainfall? Pretty well, thank you.
The huge system run by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was a week ago at 72.0 percent of capacity. The historical average at this time of the year is 81.7 percent.
New Yorkers don’t waste as much water as they used to. DEP records say that in 2021 the city consumed an average of 979 million gallons a day compared to 1021 million gallons a day the previous year and 1469 million gallons daily 30 years before.
The 2021 consumption amounts to 115.62 gallons per day per person, a vast improvement over the 199.24 gallons per day per person used in 1991.
This July 1, New York City unveiled a Rainfall Ready NYC plan to prepare for more extreme rainfall in the future.
“As climate change brings more extreme weather to the five boroughs, the city is making significant investments in infrastructure to keep New Yorkers safe, and today’s action plan outlines the additional steps New Yorkers can take to protect themselves and their property,” Rainfall Ready NYC said.
Rainfall in the reservoir system area has not followed the usual historical pattern this year. In July 2.70 inches fell instead of the historical average of 4.57 inches. In August 2.82 inches fell instead of the historical 4.30.
The pattern has reversed in the first eight days of September, when the actual rainfall has been 4.43 inches against the average of 1.17.
Except for the heavy rain if recent days, rainfall this summer has been spotty, heavy for a short time in many places and a more thorough soaking only in a few. It’s been the kind of summer where the diversity and sheer magnitude of the New York City reservoir system has come in handy.
The 123-million-gallon Ashokan Reservoir west of Kingston is at 71.6 per cent capacity, by coincidence very close to the system average.
DEP decides which of its reservoirs to draw down to meet the city’s needs. Neversink is at the time of this writing at 72 percent capacity, Rondout at 98.4 percent, Pepacton at 71.2, Cannonsville at 46.4, and Schoharie at 32.4 percent. The Croton system, where the aqueducts from the upstate reservoirs pass through in their way to Gotham, is filled to 94.4 percent capacity.
There’s been talk of an emergency plan to run a connect a pipeline from the eastern end of the Ashokan Reservoir to a line in Woodstock which would supply the City of Kingston, now in a Stage Two water emergency. New York City has the water to spare to come to Kingston’s aid, just as it could if New Paltz runs into trouble.