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Water Week

New York Celebrates Water Week

For nearly 40 years, New York has set aside a week in May to focus on its abundant water resources, highlight water issues and encourage stewardship.
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New York celebrated Water Week May 8 - 14 in 2022 with the theme, 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA) was the nation's first comprehensive water pollution control law. Its enactment still stands as a major milestone in the restoration and protection of our water resources.

The Clean Water Act delegated new responsibilities to DEC, including wastewater discharge permitting. That same year, New York began allocating billions of dollars through DEC's Construction Grants program to build an advanced network of sewage treatment facilities to reduce raw sewage flowing into rivers, lakes and streams. In 1987, the enactment of the Section 319 amendment broadened the responsibilities and authority of DEC to address additional water quality threats. It requires states to take an active role in the control of nonpoint source pollution, such as stormwater, and provides for federal funding to DEC for activities, such as technical assistance, training, demonstration projects and monitoring.

In New York we are fortunate to have an abundant supply of water in our lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands, as well as underground, for people to use and enjoy. Clean water is an asset to a community's health and economic vitality. Thanks to the Clean Water Act, and the funding that came with it, cities and villages with once heavily polluted and unusable waterways are now making those same waters the focal points of their communities.

Today our waters are much cleaner, but there is still work to be done. Fully restoring and protecting the health of New York's waters will continue to take vigilance, funding and collaborative efforts for research, planning and implementation of new technologies and practices.

During Water Week and every day, we encourage you to find ways to help protect and conserve New York's water resources. Ideas for water-related activities can be found on the watershed stewardship and keep water clean webpages. To learn about some of New York's water programs, visit the webpages under "Important Links" in the right-hand column of this page.

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

New York has Lakes of All Sizes

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.

Water Quality of Lakes

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.
Learn more about water quality in NY's lakes
  • Diet for a Small Lake, a compendium of information about the ecology, monitoring, and management of lakes and watersheds throughout New York Sate.
  • Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff law, restricts the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus.
  • Water Quality Inventory/Priority Waterbodies List, a compilation of water quality information for all individual waterbodies (lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries and coastlines) in the state.