Water Forum: Conservation First Before Desal Plant (VIDEO)

There was a panel of experts to talk facts to the crowd. One expert pushed for water conservation initiatives, such as metering, changes to United Water's rate structure, odd/event day watering schedule


The Rockland Water Coalition and Rockland Sierra Club sponsored a public forum on Tuesday night at the Nanuet Library to present their concerns on the proposed Hudson River Water Treatment Plant.

The presentation, “Community Conversation on Rockland’s Drinking Water,” had a panel of five experts who have been following the progress of the desalination plant closely:

  • Bob Dillon, RAFT—Rockland Residents Against Flooding Tomorrow
  • Martyn Ryan, Rockland Sierra Club
  • Laurie Seeman, Strawtown Studios
  • Paul Gallay, Riverkeeper, Inc.

Rita Louie, Deputy Mayor of the Village of Pomona

After George Potanovic of the Rockland Water Coalition gave a brief background update, Dillon dived right into the water relationship between Rockland and New Jersey. He also explained that the cost of the water plant may result in a $500 increase in customers’ United Water bill.

Ryan spoke about the cost savings that

“United Water … is not in the business of water conservation. They’re not in the business of water restrictions or putting alternatives in place. Their business is to supply us with water.”

Rockland by the Numbers

Rockland’s Average Usage:

  • 63 gallons per capita per day—average residential indoor usage
  • 14 GPCD—average outdoor usage (33 GPCD when you allow that outdoor usage to only affect about five months of the year) “That’s about a third of our water being used outdoors during the summer months,” said Ryan.
  • 34 million gallons per day—average total usage
  • 45-50 MGD peak day demand (peak summer day)

US EPA recent estimates of indoor water use:

  • Without conservation: 64.6 GPCD
  • With conservation: 44.7 GPCD
  • Difference: 31%

“Everyone talks about how far we’ve come in Rockland County, but when you look at the actual figures, we haven’t gotten very far,” he said. “These figures come from the American Water Association, which is the industry standard for water supply.”

Conservation Potential

According to Ryan's presentation:

Water conservation: 3 MGD—amount Rockland would save if we reduce the average residential indoor consumption by 15 percent to 54 GPCD. This figure is still 20 percent higher than EPA conservation standard and is achievable.

Desalination is scheduled to produce 5 MGD by 2020 (given water distribution system losses of 20 percent, this is actually only 4 MGD in water at the tap).

“So through a simple water conservation policy of reducing 15 percent, we can pretty much replace the desalination plant right away,” said Ryan. “The (second option, the water plant) is going to cost us $189 million and it’s going to increase your bill to about $500 a year. The top option is going to cost a fraction of that … it’s going to take some public education, it’s going to take some mandatory restrictions during the summer, it’s going to take us to really look at where do we use our water and how do we improve it? Maybe we can’t get there, but we can get close.”

Water Conservation Initiatives

“We need to implement water conservation before we go to new water sources. If we don’t do it before we build the desalination plant, we’re never going to do it afterwards.”

  • Install 100 percent metering for all water used
  • Introduce odd/even day watering schedule to reduce peak load—this also reduces average use. Also introduce rain sensors, sprinkler audits
  • Introduce mandatory free audits for highest residential and commercial users—“This is something the PSC (public service commission) should look into.”
  • Installation of modern low volume faucets, showerheads, flush toilets—‘This is going to take some more time.”
  • Lower system pressures—pressure reduction at users. “One of the major problems we have in Rockland County is related to fire water to fight fires. That’s a pressure problem, not a water supply problem. We have plenty of water to fight fires, but we need to get our pressure in our system right so that when somebody is going to use a hydrant, the pressure is there for them.”
  • Rate structure changes to reward efficiency—“There’s no incentive for people to save and use less water if they’re being billed a constant rate for their water.”
  • Public education and outreach

He added that many of these are in place in other parts of the country where drought is more prevalent.

“They’ve seen the savings and we need to start looking at doing it now,” said Ryan.

System Leaks

15 percent of all water produced in Rockland is lost through leaks in the distribution pipework and never makes it to the tap. That is approximately 5 MGD. “Sound familiar? That (water amount) is the desalination plant.”

Reducing this leakage by 20 percent would result in 1 MGD saving in lost revenue of water


Check back with Patch later for more on this meeting

CR February 01, 2013 at 04:16 PM
CR February 01, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Lower system pressures - "...so that when somebody is going to use a hydrant, the pressure is there for them.” What??? Lower system pressures so that when using a hydrant the pressure is there for them? That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I don't know about you, but if my house is on fire, I want all the pressure I can get. These guys are a joke.
how about a fee for those who want to waste water ..watering their lawns? say $1000 for any underground sprinkler..and double or triple the rate when used..people grass will adapt ...we dont need to fertilize lawns...maybe more home owners will get creative and plant a variety of say tress..small shrubs..lots of rocks and makeit more creative...drinking water is far more important..that wasteful lush lawns
Ken McQuade February 01, 2013 at 07:40 PM
Once united water gets their hands on an endless supply of water (the Hudson). Conservation will be a thing of the past. They are in the business to supply water the more the better for them.


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