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Watershed Protection Programs

Federal Government

EPA Drinking Water Standards

Office of Water

The Ag Center

Top 10 Watershed Lessons Learned

Center for Disease Control Web Page

Farm Service Agency

The Army Corps of Engineers

State Government

New York State Department of Health

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation

Local Government

New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Putnam County Web site

Westchester County Web site

Professional Associations

AWWA Web Site

New York Water Environmental Association

Other Organizations

Watershed Protection and Partnership Council

Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC)

Catskill Center for Conservation and Development

Catskill Center for Conservation and Development

The Wetlands Forum

The Center for Watershed Protection

The Catskill Watershed Corporation

Federated Conservationists of Westchester County, Inc. (FCWC)

New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation

Academic Institutions

Cornell Cooperative Extension Educational System

Rutgers Cooperative Extention Page

The Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials project (NEMO)

NYS Water Resources Institut

The following Watershed Protection Programs are included in New York City’s Filtration Avoidance Determination, or, in some cases, through the NYC Watershed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

Watershed Land Acquisition Program

Picture courtesy of NYS Department of Health - BATAVIA KILLThe Watershed Land Acquisition Program is a key element in the City’s long-term strategy to preserve environmentally sensitive lands in its upstate watersheds. Land acquisition is a critical element of the City’s ability to obtain filtration avoidance. Through this program, New York City has committed to soliciting a minimum of 355,050 acres of land over a ten-year period. The goal of the Program is for the City to acquire, from willing sellers, fee title to or conservation easements on real property determined to be water quality sensitive, undeveloped land. The land will be bought at fair market value prices and property taxes will be paid by the City. No property will be acquired by eminent domain. As part of the Watershed Land Acquisition Program, the City will consult with a Town or Village prior to the purchase of any parcels within its boundaries. The consultation will ensure that the City is aware of and considers the Town’s or Village’s interests and that the terms of the land acquisition program that the parties agreed to are complied with. As agreed upon in the MOA, the land acquisition program must provide reasonable opportunities for growth in and around existing population centers while preserving environmentally sensitive, undeveloped areas. To that end, watershed towns and villages may exempt certain areas from solicitation under the Land Acquisition Program.

Progress of Program

Thus far, this program has been successful in meeting the FAD’s land solicitation requirements. In accordance with the FAD and the MOA, the City is prioritizing its solicitation of watershed land both East of the Hudson and West of the Hudson.  As a result of the land acquisition program, the City has acquired or contracted (land and easements) approximately 70,000 acres of land for a cost of $168 million.

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New York City Watershed Rules and Regulations

Another key element of the FAD and MOA is the City’s issuance and the State’s approval of Rules and Regulations for the Protection from Contamination, Degradation and Pollution of the New York City Water Supply and its Sources (usually called the Watershed Rules and Regulations or the Regulations). The purpose of the Watershed Rules and Regulations is to ensure the continued, long-term protection of New York City’s drinking water. Without implementation of the Watershed Rules and Regulations, EPA would not have granted New York City a FAD. Specifically, the Regulations implement NYCDEP’s intention to “minimize the discharge of pollutants into source waters from both point and nonpoint sources, minimize the adverse impacts of erosion, limit the discharge of phosphorus to source waters which may accelerate the eutrophication process, and provide notification to the City of ongoing or proposed activities, which alone or in conjunction with other existing and proposed regulated activities, may cause contamination to or degradation of the water supply[New York City Watershed Rules and Regulations, 1997]. Exit EPA disclaimer The Regulations, which became effective on May 1, 1997, repeal and supersede Rules and Regulations for the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity of the City of New York enacted in June, 1953. On May 8, 1998, the Regulations became enforceable under State law.

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The Watershed Agricultural Program

A sound watershed protection program must include management of agricultural activities which may have a negative impact on water quality. The NYC-funded Watershed Agricultural Program (WAP) was developed jointly by New York City and the farm community in order to avoid the need for regulatory controls on agricultural operations in the watershed.  A secondary objective of the WAP is to conduct scientific research in support of agricultural management practices utilized in the watershed.  The program is based on voluntary farmer participation in the development and implementation of whole farms plans and is another key element of EPA's Filtration Avoidance Determination. Whole farm plans identify management practices to be implemented on the farm which protect water quality, while maintaining farming as a preferred land use in the watershed. The Watershed Agricultural Council (WAC) Exit EPA disclaimer , which manages the program, fosters partnership between interested parties including: watershed farmers, watershed agribusiness, New York City, and State, Federal, and County agencies. The Watershed Agricultural Program also supports research in the areas of watershed hydrology, waterborne parasites and farm economics, which provides the program with defensible scientific information.

Whole farms are developed by Planning and Implementation Teams, which consist of the farmer of the farm for which the plan is being developed and staff from the following agencies:

NYSDEC is conducting monitoring at a single farm and an unfarmed site to determine the degree of water quality improvement after implementation of management practices. The results will demonstrate the program's ability to identify sources and reduce pollutants. A monitoring project has recently been proposed for the Town Brook sub-basin, and Delaware County has obtained funds to conduct a study on the reduction of agricultural phosphorus through intensive forage management. Additionally, NYCDEP conducts extensive routine monitoring in the Cannonsville Reservoir basin which will also be useful in evaluating this program's effectiveness.

The Watershed Agricultural Program committed to having 85% of the watershed farms signed up for the program by October, 1997. That commitment was met.  As of January 2006, 290 commercial farms (representing 95.7% of commercial farms in the watershed) are enrolled in the program and 288 of these farms have whole farm plan agreements. 

In 2002, the Watershed Agricultural Program expanded to include Croton Watershed farms as well as small farms which previously did not meet the program's gross farm income threshold for participation.  As of January 2006, 28 whole farm plans have been approved in the Croton Watershed and whole farm plan implementation has commenced on 18 of these farms.  As of January 2006, 42 small farm whole farm plans have been approved and BMP (best manamgement practices) implementation has commenced on 32 of the 42 farms.  In 2005, 134 best management practices were installed on small farms at a cost of $384,344.00.

The program has been successfully implemented from its initiation and as the program continues to expand and to move from planning to implementation, the Watershed Agricultural Council discusses program issues and initiatives. This program is another example of progress being made in watershed protection in the New York City Watershed.

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Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Program

The Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) Compliance/Upgrade Program contained in EPA’s Filtration Avoidance Determination and the MOA is the main component to NYC’s management of enhanced point source pollution control in the NYC Watershed. As part of this program, over 100 wastewater treatment plants will be upgraded to advanced tertiary treatment. State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permits will be modified, consistent with the Watershed Rules & Regulations.

For existing WWTPs, advanced tertiary treatment refers to a treatment scheme including the following: sand filtration, disinfection, phosphorus removal, and microfiltration or an approved equivalent. See the New York City Watershed Rules and Regulations Exit EPA disclaimer for a thorough discussion of these requirements.

NYCDEP has shown interest in using the Continuously-Backwashed-Upflow-Dual-Sand Filtration technology as an alternate to microfiltration. In a cooperative effort with EPA - Region II and NYSDOH, NYCDEP conducted a study to determine whether these two technologies were equivalent in the removal of pathogens from treated wastewater. The Free PDF reader available protocol for the study may be viewed in PDF format. In addition, EPA conducted a Free PDF reader available statistical analysis of the study results. On August 25, 1998, after an extensive public comment period (see Free PDF reader available comments received and EPA responses), EPA, in consultation with NYS Department of Health made the Free PDF reader available determination that for purposes of removing Giardia cysts and Cryptosporidium oocysts from treated wastewater in NYC's drinking water watersheds the two technologies are equivalent.

In addition to plant upgrades, other work will be performed to ameliorate overloaded or poorly functioning plants. Such work includes: identifying, repairing, and/or replacing existing sewer collection systems, controlling industrial waste discharges to WWTPs, and developing infiltration/inflow (I/I) remediation plans and sample monitoring programs of contributing industrial waste streams. As an example, as part of the Kensico Remediation Plan, exfiltration from leaking sewers in proximity to reservoirs and tributaries are being eliminated.

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New Sewage Treatment Infrastructure Program

The MOA institutes a New Sewage Treatment Infrastructure Program through which the City will fund construction of new WWTPs or community septic systems, or the creation of new septic system districts for areas that are experiencing water quality problems due to failing individual residential septic systems. Existing private, commercial, and institutional WWTP flows in priority communities will be considered for diversion to regional WWTP’s.

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Reservoir Modeling and TMDLs

The presence of excess nutrients in surface waters is an undesirable condition because it may cause eutrophication. Eutrophication is when a surface water, such as a drinking water reservoir, becomes overgrown with aquatic plants, both attached and planktonic, to levels that are considered to be an interference with designated water uses. Eutrophication of a drinking water supply can lead to harmful algal blooms, taste and odor problems, and other undesirable conditions. To address the problem of eutrophication in NYC Watershed reservoirs, nutrient Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) are being developed in a joint effort between NYCDEP, USEPA, and NYSDEC.

TMDL analysis requires use of a method of predicting effects that various pollutant loadings (in this case phosphorus) will have on reservoirs. Sophisticated models are generally used for this purpose, and are therefore being developed for the New York City Watershed. The modeling effort includes use of terrestrial models to predict loading rates to the reservoirs and hydrothermal and water quality models to predict limnological responses of the reservoirs to pollutant loadings/reductions. Reservoirs of both the Catskill/Delaware and the Croton water systems are to be modeled as part of this effort; however, the FAD requires modeling of only the Catskill/Delaware system reservoirs.

TMDL analysis is being accomplished in a phased approach so that nutrient reduction strategies can be implemented as quickly as possible. Phase I TMDLs were developed using simplified models that were available. Phase II TMDL calculations utilized more sophisticated models, improved data, and other improvements. EPA approved the proposed Phase I TMDLs on April 2, 1997. Phase II TMDLs were proposed by NYSDEC in November 1999. A public review was conducted with the public comment period closing in February 2000. EPA approved NYSDEC's submittal of Phase II TMDLs for the 19 reservoirs on October 17, 2000. NYSDEC together with NYCDEP developed a report identifying potential non-point source management practices based on the types of land use in the relevant basin and any other basin-specific conditions. A second report outlined non-point source management practices that NYCDEP will implement, and recommended management practices to be implemented by other agencies. The State's TMDL program information Exit EPA disclaimer are available online.

For more information on the national TMDL program, please see EPA’s TMDL web page.

The North American Lake Management Society has devoted two issues of its Journal to scientific studies and related modeling efforts for Cannonsville Reservoir.  One of these issues, Volume 14, No. 2-3, September 1998 is currently available through EPA, Region II.  Supplies limited.  Please request your copy via email: sweeney.philip@epa.gov

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Waterborne Disease Risk Assessment Program

A Waterborne Disease Risk Assessment Program Exit EPA disclaimer was established by New York City to obtain data on the rates of Giardiasis Exit EPA disclaimer and Cryptosporidiosis, Exit EPA disclaimer along with demographic and risk factor information on case patients. The goal of this program is to provide a system that tracks diarrheal illness to assure rapid detection of any outbreaks, and to determine if tap water consumption contributes to gastrointestinal disease.

The ongoing program is jointly administered by the NYC Departments of Health and Environmental Protection.

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Septic System Rehabilitation and Replacement Program

The Septic System Rehabilitation and Replacement Program was established to provide for pump-outs and inspectionsof septic systems serving single or two-family residences in the WOH Watershed, to upgrade substandard systems and to rehabilitate or replace systems that are failing or are reasonably likely to fail in the near future. The Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) Exit EPA disclaimer administers the program.

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Stream Management Program

In the 15th edition of standard methods, turbidity is defined as "an optical property of the [water] sample causing light to be scattered and absorbed, not transmitted.  Turbidity could be a problem in drinking water supplies.  Elevated levels may interfere with disinfection efficiency and may indicate the presence of pathogens in the source water.  For these reasons, turbidity is an EPA regulated parameter under the surface water treatment rule and is a factor in determining the need for filtration.   "Turbidity events", or periods of elevated turbidity -- often caused by storms, have periodically raised turbidity in the Ashokan reservoir to levels exceeding five nephelemetric turbidity units (NTUs), threatening shutdown of the Catskill Aqueduct.  To address these episodic turbidity events, the 1997 FAD requires that NYCDEP implement a "Stream Corridor Protection/Stabilization Program" along stream corridors in the Catskill/Delaware watershed.

The city has dedicated professional staff to accomplish three programmatic elements:

The Stream Management Program (SMP) in cooperation with fifteen agencies sponsored the 1998-2000 Workshop Series which was geared for NYC staff, town and village planners, highway superintendents and engineers, anglers, and those who design and implement stream BMPs.

The restoration work is ongoing and includes stream bank demonstration projects in the Batavia Kill, Broadstreet Hollow, Stoney Clove, W. Branch Delaware, Chestnut Creek, and Schoharie Creek sub-basins.  A short description and status of the current stream management projects is included in EPA's report Free PDF reader available "Assessing New York City's Watershed Protection Program" on page 93.  Please see this report for more information on the Stream Management Program. 

See EPA's webpage on stream corridor restoration for a good overall technical review of stream restoration including links to other sites.

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Kensico Modeling and Remediation Program

The Kensico Reservoir, in central Westchester County, is the terminal reservoir for the city's Catskill/Delaware water supply system.  Under normal operating conditions, almost all water from the Catskill/Delaware watershed flows through the Kensico Reservoir prior to being chlorinated and sent to the city via the Catskill and Delaware aqueducts.   Kensico Reservoir has its own watershed and is therefore exposed to potential contamination in the form of polluted run-off.  As a terminal reservoir, Kensico is subject to the objective criteria of the Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR), which contains standards for total and fecal coliform and turbidity levels for unfiltered water supplies.  The overall objective of the Kensico modeling and remediation program is to identify the source of these contaminants and institute appropriate source prevention and remediation measures.  To ensure protection of the reservoir and the city's water supply, EPA and the city agreed on nine Kensico related remediation projects which were included in EPA's 1997 FAD:

These projects and programs are in various stages of completion.  For detailed project descriptions and status, please see EPA's Mid-Course FAD Evaluation, Free PDF reader available "Assessing New York City's Watershed Protection Program".

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UV Disinfection Facilities

The 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act required that EPA develop a new rule targeted to the inactivation of the pathogen Cryptosporidium. EPA in response to this mandate promulgated on January 5, 2006 the Long-term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule. Under this new rule, unfiltered drinking water supplies are required to use a minimum of two disinfectants, one of which must provide for the inactivation of Cryptosporidium. To satisfy this requirement, the City has chosen Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection technology and will construct a new UV disinfection facility supplementing the existing chlorination disinfection facility for the Catskill/Delaware supplies. The City has selected the Eastview site in Westchester County for the location of the new UV disinfection facility. Subsequent to the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement, the final design and specifications were completed and approved by New York State Department of Health on January 30, 2006. The facility is designed to treat a maximum of 2.4 billion gallons per day and is capable of providing 99.9% inactivation of Cryptosporidium. Construction of the UV disinfection facility is planned to begin in 2006 and is scheduled to be fully operational by November 2010. When completed the UV disinfection facility, for the Catskill/Delaware supplies, will be the largest plant of its kind in the world. Under normal conditions it will treat 90% of the City's daily water demand but will have the capacity to treat all of the City's drinking water needs even during peak demand periods.

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Other Protection Programs

The FAD encompasses many other programs designed to provide additional protection to the watershed areas that are the source of New York City’s drinking water supply. Examples of these programs are the Watershed Forestry Program, the Salt and Sand Storage Program, the Stormwater Retrofit Program and the Wetlands Program.

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