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Water Week

New York Celebrates Water Week

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Water Week is May 2-6 in 2016. For over 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: "Lake Management." New York is fortunate to have many lakes of all sizes, and people use them for a variety of purposes, such as drinking water, flood control, and recreation.

Each day during Water Week, the Division of Water has sent a "Special Edition" message to its MakingWaves listserve highlighting a different topic related to lake management. To subscribe to MakingWaves, enter your email address in the "DEC Delivers" box on this page.

Join the Celebration!

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

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, organizations and schools. Find ideas for water-related activities on the Watershed Stewardship webpage.

Water Week Special Edition Topics

Watch for new information to be added each day, May 2 - 6, about the following topics:

New York has Lakes of All Sizes to Manage (May 2)

Reservoirs and Created Lakes (May 3)

Water Quality of Lakes (May 4)

Clean Water Plans for Lake Management (May 5)

Stewardship of NY's Lakes (May 6)

New York has Lakes of All Sizes to Manage

Did you Know?

  • There is no standard definition of what constitutes a lake or pond in New York State. However, the Division of Water commonly uses 7,850 as the number of lakes, reservoirs and ponds in the state. This includes over 3,000 larger named lakes (over 6.4 acres), about 500 larger unnamed ponds, and about 4,300 smaller named and unnamed waterbodies of some significance that have been included into the official count.
  • DEC conducts water quality sampling and evaluates these waterbodies primarily through two monitoring programs:
  • Monitoring data collected through these programs is used to develop and implement lake management plans.
  • The Waterbody Inventory/Priority Waterbodies List (WI/PWL) is a compilation of water quality information for all individual waterbodies assessed in the state. The WI/PWL groups lake waterbodies into 2,100 assessment segments that cover nearly 690,000 acres (not including the two New York Great Lakes).

Test Your Water Knowledge (Answers are at bottom of the page)

  1. What does the Division of Water announce in MakingWaves the first Friday of every month regarding water quality assessments?
  2. What is the Rotating Integrated Basin Studies (RIBS) Program?

Learn More about New York's Lakes

Reservoirs and Created Lakes

Did you know?

  • In New York, most lakes are man-made waterbodies, created by the over 5,000 dams in the state. Most dams are relatively small structures used primarily for agricultural purposes; whereas, larger reservoirs are used primarily for water supply.
  • Most reservoirs are not intended to provide flood control. They are designed to remain largely full, reserving water for later uses. However, reservoirs can and do provide some flood protection benefits, because even when full, they reduce downstream peak flow rates during large runoff events.
  • While reservoirs are useful for a variety of purposes, they alter natural stream flow, which can impact wildlife habitat or public recreational uses. New York's reservoir release regulations allow for recreational uses, such as trout fishing and canoeing, in waters below the reservoir while ensuring an adequate supply of water for power production or water supply.
  • The owners of dams are responsible for maintaining and operating the dam in a safe condition at all times. DEC provides information for dam owners on its Dam Safety webpage.

Test your water knowledge (Answer is at the bottom of the page)

3. True or False? The quantity of water withdrawn from lakes and reservoirs for municipal, agricultural, and commercial uses in New York must be reported to the DEC annually.

Learn more about New York's reservoirs and created lakes

Water Quality of Lakes

Did you know?

  • The majority of lakes and ponds in New York support swimming, fishing, and other recreational uses. However, some lakes are affected by water quality concerns that can prevent or limit recreational activities. Aquatic invasive species and harmful algal blooms have been around for a long time, but they are getting worse and may represent the largest threat to New York State lakes, ponds and reservoirs.
  • DEC and its partners are implementing a number of initiatives to address aquatic invasive species, including: preventing them from entering lakes and ponds with boat stewardship programs; prohibiting the worst of these exotic species from being sold or transported in New York; and sponsoring very active volunteer monitoring programs to detect and respond to foreign species before the invasions are too advanced to manage.
  • To address harmful algal blooms, DEC: works with researchers to understand the cause of blooms; supports extensive professional and volunteer monitoring programs to find and verify blooms; notifies the public about the location and extent of blooms to help protect recreational users; and implements public educational programs.
  • Many water quality concerns are the result of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, reaching lakes from urban stormwater runoff, septic systems and agricultural runoff. New York is developing strategies to reduce the amount of nutrients entering our waters. Examples include: restricting the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus, urban stormwater controls, and erosion control measures.

Test your water knowledge (Answer is at the bottom of the page)

4. Are harmful algal blooms caused by algae or bacteria?

Learn more about water quality in NY's lakes

Clean Water Plans for Lake Management

Did you know?

  • Clean water plans are watershed-based strategies to improve or portect water quality. Examples of clean water plans are: Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and Nine Key Element Watershed Plans.
  • Clean water plans that involve stakeholders from every community within the watershed are a very effective way to protect and restore lakes, reservoirs, and ponds.
  • TMDLs and watershed plans have been completed for many waterbodies in New York State and can be accessed on DEC's Clean Water Plans webpage.
  • DEC is implementing a new approach to addressing the water quality issues in identified lakes, rivers and streams on the Section 303(d) List of Impaired/TMDL Waters. This new approach is described in a document recently posted to DEC's website entitled, the Vision Approach to Implement Clean Water Act 303(d) Program and Clean Water Planning (PDF, 832 KB). This document describes New York's adaptive strategy to prioritize waterbodies for the development of clean water plans based on the state's identified priority concerns: nutrients, pathogens and public use.

Test your water knowledge (Answer is at the bottom of the page)

5. How often is the Section 303(d) List of Impaired/TMDL Waters updated?

Learn more about clean water plans

Stewardship of NY's Lakes

Did you know?

  • New York is fortunate to have many lakes, reservoirs and ponds, and they: provide drinking water; provide flood control to protect life and property; support recreation, tourism, agriculture, fishing, power generation, and manufacturing; and provide habitat for aquatic plant and animal life.
  • Lakes are managed through programs that plan and implement activities to protect, restore, and conserve the water. These efforts vary in scope, with some programs encompassing entire or multiple drainage basins, such as for the Great Lakes. Other programs are more locally focused on a smaller waterbody within a larger area.
  • Many organizations, associations, local governments, other state agencies, and individuals work with the DEC to protect and restore NY's lakes. These partnerships are vital to the stewardship of our lakes.

Test you water knowledge (Answer is at the bottom of the page)

When buying lawn fertilizer, what can homeowners and lawn care specialists do to be good stewards of NY's lakes?

Learn more about water stewardship

Answers to Water Week Questions

  1. The first Friday of every month, the Division of Water announces the individual waterbodies in the Waterbody Inventory/Priority Waterbodies List that have updated water quality assessment information.
  2. RIBS is the DOW statewide lake, river and stream monitoring program. The RIBS monitoring schedule rotates to different major drainage basins in the state each year, covering the entire state every five years. The integrated monitoring and assessment in each basin is conducted over a three-year period.
  3. True for all water withdrawal systems with the capability to withdraw 100,000 gallons per day or more.
  4. Bacteria. Although they used to be called "blue green algae", cyanobacteria, which are the main component of freshwater HABs, are actually bacteria that can conduct photosynthesis and produce liver, nerve or skin toxins.
  5. Every two years. The process to update the Section 303(d) List for 2016 is currently underway. A DRAFT 2016 Section 303(d) List was made available by the DEC for a 45-day public comment period that ended March 4, 2016. DEC is reviewing the comments received, and the proposed final 2016 list is expected to be submitted to EPA soon.
  6. Look for the Zero! Check the lawn fertilizer bag for a set of three numbers showing the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Buy a bag with a "0" in the middle. Phosphorus that runs off your lawn can end up in the water, causing excess algae that ruins boating and swimming and harms fish. It can also impact drinking water. Under New York State law, phosphorus-containing fertilizer may only be applied to lawn or non-agricultural turf when: a soil test indicates that additional phosphorus is needed; or the fertilizer is used for a newly established lawn or non-agricultural turf during the first growing season.