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Water Week

New York Celebrates Water Week

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Water Week is May 3-9 in 2015. For the past 30 years, New York has set aside the first full week in May to focus on its abundant water resources, highlight water issues and encourage stewardship. This year's theme is: "50th Anniversary of the Pure Waters Act". New York's Pure Waters Act is the predecessor of the federal Clean Water Act.

During Water Week, the Division of Water will send a "Special Edition" message each day via Making Waves highlighting a different water-related topic.

Water Week Special Edition Making Waves topics are:

New York Led the Way in 1965 - Monday

Federal Clean Water Act - Tuesday

Achievements in New York since the Pure Waters Bond Act Was Passed - Wednesday

Remaining Work to be Done - Thursday

Stewardship of NY's Waters - Friday

Join the Celebration!

Photo of a lake and creek.
Help protect, restore and conserve New York's waters for the future!

Celebrating Water Week by holding an event or conducting an activity has become a tradition for many people. Anytime is a good time to celebrate our valuable water resources! Find ideas for water-related activities on the Watershed Stewardship webpage.

New York Led the Way in 1965

Did you know?

Governor Rockefeller first outlined the Pure Waters Program in 1964 with a bold proposal that the people of New York State spend $1 billion, possibly more, to clean up their lakes, rivers, and coastal waters. In November, 1965, New Yorkers voted four to one to approve the billion dollar bond issue. This approval launched the largest and most comprehensive water pollution control program in the world. To put this in perspective, today $1 billion would be equal to $7.5 billion. New York's Pure Waters Program laid the groundwork for the federal Clean Water Act that was adopted in 1972.

Test your water knowledge (find answers below)

1) In 1965, what department was given the "responsibility for carrying out the people's mandate to cleanse the waters of the Empire State"?

2) What was the billion dollars primarily used for?

Federal Clean Water Act

Did you know?

  • New York's 1965 Pure Waters Act laid the groundwork for the Federal Clean Water Act.
  • The 1972 amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act recast it into its modern form. This legislation: 1) set up the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program (NPDES); 2) focused on technology-based standards for point sources, and 3) provided a massive grant-in-aid program for sewage treatment plant construction.
  • The 1972 amendments set an interim goal of providing for the "protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and provide for recreation in and on the water". The shorthand expression for this goal became, "fishable/swimmable".
  • In 1977, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was extensively amended and renamed the Clean Water Act (CWA).
  • To fulfill its responsibilities under the CWA, the Division of Water uses a watershed management approach for many of its water protection and restoration efforts.

Test your water knowledge (find answers below)

3) In what year was the CWA amended to include the control of nonpoint sources of pollution?

4) In what year was New York State authorized to issue permits through the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES)?

Achievements in New York Since the Pure Waters Bond Act Was Passed

Did you know?

Voters in New York passed other environmental bond acts subsequent to 1965:

  • The Environmental Quality Bond Act of 1972 authorized $650 million for the preservation, enhancement, restoration and improvement of water quality. (That would be equal to $3.5 billion today.)
  • The 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act provided $495 million to municipalities and soil and water conservation districts for water quality improvement projects, including wastewater treatment and projects to address nonpoint sources of pollution.

In 1989, New York State created the State Revolving Loan Fund, which is used for low-interest loans to municipalities for wastewater treatment improvements. This fund is administered by the Environmental Facilities Corporation. (See "Links Leaving DEC's Website" in the right-hand column of this page.)

These efforts were largely successful, as there has been significant water quality improvement across the state since the early 1970's.

Test your water knowledge (find answers below)

5) What water-related funding opportunities are available now through the Consolidated Funding Application?

Remaining Work to be Done

Did you know?

Although New York's waters are dramatically cleaner than they were 50 years ago, the Division of Water and its partners are working together to address the issues that remain, including:

  • Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), that can send untreated sewage into waterbodies during rain events;
  • Nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, washing into waterbodies causing algae overgrowth with serious impacts to the environment and public health;
  • The aging infrastructure of the wastewater treatment systems build 40, 50 or even 60 years ago, which are starting to fail and need maintenance (asset management) to avoid major water quality impacts;
  • Polluted stormwater that carries nutrients, bacteria, sediment, litter and other pollutants into waterbodies; and
  • Protecting Long Island's water quality and strengthening its coastal resiliency against future storms and sea level rise.

Test your water knowledge (find answers below)

6) True or False: It is against New York State Law to use fertilizer containing phosphorus on your lawn unless you are establishing a new lawn or a soil test shows that your lawn does not have enough phosphorus.

Stewardship of NY's Waters

Did you know?

New York State has more than 87,000 miles of rivers and streams, nearly 7,900 lakes and ponds, nearly 600 miles of Great Lakes coastline, over 1,530 square miles of estuaries, 120 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, as well as underground aquifers, to protect and conserve. Billions of dollars have been spent over the past 50 years toward the "fishable/swimmable" goal set forth in the Clean Water Act. There has been significant water quality improvement, but more work remains to be done. The Division of Water invites you to work with us as we strive to reach this goal.

Test your water knowledge (find answers below)

7) In what year was Water Week initiated in New York State?

8) What do the acronyms, WAVE and CSLAP stand for?

Learn more

On DEC's website, you can find information about:

Answers for "Test your water knowledge" above :

1) The State Health Department, which created the Division of Pure Waters, was the first department responsible for implementing the Pure Waters Program and 1965 Bond Act. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation was not established until July 1, 1970.

2) The 1965 Bond Act was used primarily for the construction of municipal waste treatment facilities.

3) The 1987 federal amendments required states to identify nonpoint sources of pollution and develop plans for control of them. In 1989, NYS signed legislation to safeguard waters of the state "by controlling and abating new and existing sources of nonpoint source pollution".

4) SPDES was established in 1973 under Article 12 of the Navigation Law (now Article 17 of the Environmental Conservation Law).

5) Water Quality Improvement Projects and Wastewater Infrastructure Engineering Planning Grant applications are available on the Consolidated Funding Application.

6) True! The 2010 Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law includes restrictions on the sale and use of lawn fertilizers. (Some municipalities have stricter laws about the sale and use of lawn fertilizers.) The law will improve water quality in New York by reducing the amount of phosphorus washing into lakes, rivers, and ponds.

7) Water Week started in 1985. This is the 30th anniversary of Water Week!

8) WAVE is DEC's Water Assessments by Volunteer Evaluators and CSLAP is DEC's Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program.