NYC’s Big Water Savings Goal

New York City’s demand for drinking water is at its lowest in 50 years even though the city’s population has reached a record high of over 8.6 million people. Not resting on its laurels, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has released the 2018 Water Demand Management Plan to realize further savings.

By Robert C. Brears*

In 2013, DEP issued a Water Demand Management Plan which saw the city reinstate the Toilet Replace Program, increase metering of customers, and develop partnerships with City agencies to upgrade plumbing and replace inefficient fixtures in municipal facilities. Over the past five years, the Water Demand Management Program has saved the city almost 10 million gallons of water per day. The 2018 Water Demand Management Program will build on this success with the city aiming to double, by 2022, total water savings to 20 million gallons of water per day. To achieve this, DEP is implementing a range of programs across its various types of customers.

Enhancing water efficiency in hospitals

Over 2016–2017, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), which is the largest municipal healthcare system in the United States, serving 1.4 million patients across New York City in its various hospitals and clinics, participated in DEP’s Water Challenge to Hospital initiative. As part of the challenge, HHC conducted a water audit to identify water savings opportunities. Under the 2018 Water Demand Management Plan, DEP is working with HHC to retrofit its Harlem Hospital campus through Fall 2018 with the partnership replacing 546 toilets, 37 urinals, 48 showerheads, 985 faucet aerators, 12 water-cooled ice machines, and an industrial dishwater. DEP will also work with 10 other HHC hospitals to survey their facilities for future retrofits, with work on these retrofits expected to be completed between 2019 and 2021.

Water Challenge to Universities

With New York City home to more university students than any other city in the country, DEP will be launching a Water Challenge to Universities in 2018. The Challenge will engage university staff in implementing permanent water conservation measures while at the same time fostering a water conservation ethic among university staff and administrators. The goal of the Challenge will be to achieve a 5% reduction in water consumption through voluntary reductions and permanent upgrades.

Timely access to water usage data

Providing customers with information related to their water consumption is important as it enables customers to identify leaks and other inefficiencies. To facilitate water savings, the My DEP Account was created and as of May 2018 has 399,000 customers signed up. The My DEP Account allows customers to view their water use and provides a leak alert option. For customers who enroll in the leak alert option, an alert is sent if consumption triples for five consecutive days. To date, over 290,000 customers have signed up for this service.

The take-out

Successful demand management strategies can always be finessed to achieve further savings.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley) The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan), Natural Resource Management and the Circular Economy (Palgrave Macmillan), Blue and Green Cities: The Role of Blue-Green Infrastructure in Managing Urban Water Resources (Palgrave Macmillan) and editor of Climate Resilient Water Resources Management (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Our Future Water, Mitidaption, and Mark and Focus.

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