Conserving Long Island’s Water Source
August 12, 2020
Long Island’s Drought Alert!
Residents on Long Island rely on an underground aquifer system for their freshwater needs. Groundwater is pumped up to the surface and gets replenished by precipitation and snowmelt that seeps through the ground.
Given the recent drought alert for the region, the nearly 3 million residents in Nassau and Suffolk counties need to be especially mindful of their water usage at this time. Coastal aquifers are susceptible to saltwater intrusion when freshwater is pumped from the aquifer at a faster rate than it’s replenished. If there is not enough fresh water in the aquifer to prevent saltwater from encroaching, salt water can contaminate freshwater wells.
Conserving Water at Home
Reducing the amount of water that’s pumped from the aquifer begins at the tap. Long Islander’s have a great opportunity to reduce water usage at home.
Here are some ways to conserve water at home:
- Install a toilet tank bank or make your own to save water with every flush!
- Only run the dishwasher or washing machine with a full load.
- Add an aerator to faucets or replace fixtures and shower heads with EPA WaterSense labeled ones.
- Upgrade appliances to a water-saving version.
- Take showers and reduce your shower time (make a shower playlist to keep track of the time!)
- Check for and repair any leaks in your home. Learn to read your water meter to better detect leaks.
- Turn off the water when brushing your teeth or soaping up dishes when washing by hand.
- Check the weather before watering your lawn, and only water during early morning or night time to reduce evaporation.
- Sweep your patio/driveway and use a watering can for the garden instead of using a hose.
Take the pledge to reduce your water usage at home and join fellow Long Islanders in the movement to conserve Long Island’s water source!
Visit the following sites for more information about water conservation on Long Island:
- Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection
- Long Island Moms for Clean Water
- Water for Long Island
Improving Long Island’s Water Quality
Nitrogen pollution is the biggest water quality issue on Long Island for both surface and groundwater. Nitrogen comes from wastewater, fertilizer, and stormwater runoff. Not only does it leach into groundwater and can contaminate drinking water, nitrogen flows toward surface waters and often causes harmful algal (plant) blooms due to excess nutrients. Algal blooms usually lead to fish kills and impact boating, swimming, fishing, and shellfishing. Some algae are poisonous for people, too. For information about initiatives to reduce nitrogen pollution on Long Island, click here.
Protecting Water Quality at Home
The opportunity to protect Long Island’s water quality begins at home. There are plenty of ways to not only protect, but to improve water quality and reduce nitrogen pollution with a few simple practices and upgrades. If every Long Islander implemented at least one of these changes, the results would be incredible!
Lawns and gardens are certainly aesthetically pleasing, but upkeep can be a major culprit of nitrogen pollution. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your lawn and garden looking great while protecting Long Island’s water quality:
- Plant natives that do not need excess watering or fertilizing.
- Use drought-resistant plants and flowers.
- Install a rain barrel or rain garden.
- Use low-nutrient fertilizer or compost.
- Plant microclover for your lawn instead of grass.
- Apply mulch to reduce evaporation from soil.
- Aerate your lawn with holes for better drainage and less run-off.
Visit the following sites for information on yard stewardship programs and initiatives on Long Island:
- Save the Great South Bay- Bay Friendly Yards
- Peconic Estuary Partnership- Peconic Friendly Yard
- LI Native Plant Initiative- Native Plant Fact Sheets
An old or poorly maintained septic system can lead to sewage backflow (sewage backup into the home), sewage overflow (sewage surfaces in the yard), and environmental degradation. Traditional Long Island septic systems and cesspools are not designed to filter nitrogen. Older systems will continually cause nitrogen to leach into the groundwater and to surrounding water bodies and surface waters.
Take our pledge and you will receive our guide on septic upgrades this Fall! This resource will provide information on government initiatives and available financing.
Visit the following sites for more information about septics and nitrogen pollution on Long Island:
- Citizens Campaign for the Environment
- Nassau County Soil & Water Conservation District
- Suffolk County Government- Reclaim Our Water
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