Locally, we tend to take our water for granted, as we tap into the three aquifers lying below Long Island. But there are major concerns we need to consider:
- Contamination of our groundwater
- Impacts of groundwater on our ponds, creeks, bays and Sound
- Water supply
Suffolk County relies on sole-source aquifers for drinking water supply. In just 18 years average nitrate levels have increased significantly in all three of its underlying aquifers. This rapid rise demonstrates a need for mitigation soon in order to protect these important resources and avoid costly treatment in the future. Roughly one-third of private wells in the county have levels exceeding groundwater targets of 4-6 mg/l, while many exceed the drinking water maximum of10 mg/l, and in agricultural areas levels even exceed 20 mg/l.
The 2010 Draft Suffolk County Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan discusses the nitrogen issue, as well as other contaminants and the development patterns that influence this rise.
We now know that a standard based on drinking water quality is not nearly good enough for our marine environment, in fact it is deficient by a factor of 20.Clean water resources are especially important for the East End of Long Island, with its water-dependent economy founded in maritime, agricultural and resort industries. While there were no reported blooms of harmful algae in Suffolk County in the early 1980’s, since 1985, five distinct groups of harmful algal bloom (HAB) have emerged in Suffolk County’s coastal waters. These algal blooms reduce oxygen in the water and can be toxic to shellfish, fish, and even humans. The result is a degraded ecosystem. Currently the whole South Shore is impaired, with a resulting loss of 99% of its shellfish industry.
The source of our water is not infinite. Stressed by increasing population densities, rising seas, and increasing use per capita, quantity is a growing concern, even on Long Island. While farming is a major consumer of water, domestic use for landscaping has risen rapidly also. 58% of domestic water consumption is for outdoor uses. If we reduce consumption of water, other benefits accrue: less energy, less carbon, and fewer chemicals.