FAQ Categories


Why Does...

Drinking Water Questions

Automated Meter Reading

New Construction

Questions & Answers


How is billing computed?

Our billing cycle is based on a ninety-day billing quarter (three months use). Your bill includes a basic service charge that is based on the size of your water service line and on water consumption registered through a meter. For more explanation about billing take a look at the bill sample and minimum service charge chart.

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Why do I have to pay a $30.00 initiation fee if I change residences?

The Suffolk County Water Authority is a not-for-profit public benefit corporation. In order to keep service costs low for our entire customer base, we establish fees to cover costs that may be specific to certain services that most customers do not use. The initiation fee is a specific charge used to defray the cost incurred to establish a new account.

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Why Does...

Is this water safe to drink?

The Suffolk County Water Authority operates the largest, most technologically advanced groundwater testing laboratory in the United States. If our lab tests the water and concludes that the water has excessive levels of iron, we will notify you not to consume it until it becomes clear again. Iron is not normally considered harmful to health, but can cause off-taste, odor or staining problems.

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How long will it take before the condition clears itself?

Unfortunately, this is rather hard to predict, since each situation is different. Normally the water will clear in between four and eight hours.

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My laundry has become stained, now what?

Please call your Suffolk County Water Authority Call Center at (631) 698-9500 and request a package of "Yellow Out." This laundry additive will remove the iron stains from your laundry, if used properly as directed on the package.

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What are you doing to remove iron from my water?

SCWA utilizes iron removal systems in communities where excess iron is an issue. The results have been impressive and customer complaints have dropped dramatically. We have also installed water mains to carry water from areas where the water is free of iron to South Shore communities, where iron in groundwater is most prevalent.

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Drinking Water Questions

Where does my water come from?

All water the Suffolk County Water Authority delivers to customers comes from porous underground sand and gravel formations known as aquifers. There are three major aquifers found beneath Suffolk County. The deepest aquifer is the Lloyd aquifer, which ranges from 200 to 1,800 feet below land surface. We take very little water from this aquifer. The middle aquifer is called the Magothy aquifer, which is the thickest aquifer and is the source of most of the water served to SCWA Customers. The shallowest aquifer is the upper glacial aquifer. SCWA supplies approximately 20% of its water from this aquifer, mostly on the East End. The upper glacial is the main source of water for irrigation wells serving farms and golf courses  as well as private wells serving individual homes.

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Where did the aquifers come from?

The sand, gravel and clays found within the Magothy and Lloyd aquifers were deposited approximately 60 to 65 million years ago by rivers and streams carrying sediment eroded from the mountains west of Long Island. The upper glacial aquifer was formed approximately 25,000 years ago by movement of large ice masses known as glaciers, which covered most of Eastern Canada and New England at the time.

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How does water get into the aquifers?

All the water in our aquifers comes from precipitation—rain, melted snow, and even melted ice from the glaciers. When it rains, or when snow melts, it slowly works its way through the sandy soil beneath us and into the aquifers, where it collects. The sandy soil helps filter the water as it works its way to our aquifers

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How do we retrieve water from the aquifers?

SCWA has approximately 600 wells located throughout Suffolk County. Our wells are anywhere from 100 to 750 feet deep. These wells have large, electrically-driven pumps that draw water from the aquifers as needed. The water is then pumped to large pipes called water mains that deliver it to our customers. Unlike New York City and many of the water suppliers in the tri-state area, our water does not come from reservoirs such as lakes or other large surface water systems.

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Do we have enough water in the aquifers to meet our present and future needs?

Scientists estimate that Long Island’s aquifers hold between 65 and 120 trillion gallons of water. Annual precipitation in Suffolk alone amounts to more than 600 billion gallons, approximately half of which replenishes (or recharges) the aquifers. (Most of the remaining half evaporates or is lost as runoff to surface water bodies.) In contrast, SCWA’s annual pumpage is approximately 70 billion gallons per year, significantly less than the amount of water being replenished.

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If there's sufficient water supplies in the aquifers, then why can't I waste water?

Water is a precious life giving resource that should not be squandered. Besides, as we pump water, we use more electricity and chemicals. And remember, you pay for the water you use.

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What's added to the water supply?

We add very small amounts of a chemical called chlorine to our water. Chlorine kills any germs or bacteria that might be present in the water mains as the water is delivered to you. The water as it comes from the ground is free of harmful bacteria. New York State requires that we add chlorine to our water. We also add a chemical called lime. The water that we pump from our aquifers is slightly acidic, which can damage the pipes in your home over a long period of time. Lime makes the water less acidic, which protects the pipes in your home from corrosion.

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Sometimes, I taste or smell chlorine in my tap water. What can I do?

The best thing to do is place a pitcher of water in your refrigerator. As the temperature of the water goes down, the small amount of chlorine in the water will turn to gas and leave the water. Besides, there is nothing like cold water when you are thirsty.

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Is our water safe to drink?

Absolutely! The water we deliver to our customers must meet very strict standards established by New York State, and New York State's water quality standards are among the strictest in the United States. The water we deliver to you is constantly tested to insure that it is safe, pure, and meets all water quality standards.

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Who tests my water?

We test your water. The Water Authority operates the largest groundwater-testing laboratory in the nation. We have a staff of more than 35 professional chemists, microbiologists and technicians who perform approximately 75,000 tests a year in our state-of-the-art laboratory. We look for approximately 300 chemical constituents. Our laboratory operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to insure that your drinking water meets the highest standards in the nation.

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Who keeps an eye on your lab?

Twice per year, the New York State Department of Health performs Proficiency Tests at our laboratory. Only after we pass these tests are we "certified" by the state. In these tests, we are given samples of water that contain traces of chemicals. Using very sophisticated equipment, we must identify the chemicals and determine how much of each chemical is in each sample. We have consistently done very well on these tests and have always maintained our certification. We report our day-to-day water testing results electronically to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and the New York State Department of Health for their review. Our laboratory staff has even developed methods of testing for chemicals (protocols) that have been adopted and published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use by other laboratories. On a national level, our lab is accredited by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditaion Program.

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If the water is safe, why does it need to be constantly tested?

Science has made great advances over the past 50 years. New drugs have been discovered that have helped us live longer and healthier lives. New pesticides and herbicides have been developed to help increase crop production, feeding more people at a lower cost. Gasoline and gasoline additives have allowed us to travel more at a lower cost; fuel oils have allowed us to more dependably heat our homes and places of business; chemicals around our homes have given us conveniences that were unheard of before. Unfortunately, some of these advances and conveniences have had an effect upon our aquifers. Our corner gas stations, green lawns, landfills, cesspools, septic tanks, and use of "new chemicals", while making our lives easier, have also had an effect upon our groundwater. Very simply, what we put on the ground eventually can wind up in our groundwater. So, we look for all the chemicals that New York State and the federal government feel we should be looking for (about 200 chemicals). But beyond that, we even look for chemicals that we don't even have to (about another 100 chemicals), all to insure that the water we serve you is pure and safe.

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What do you do if you find a contaminant in the water supply?

We can detect chemicals in our water-testing laboratory at very low levels. In fact, we measure chemicals down to parts per billion. To understand this, a part per billion would be equal to one second in the life of a 32-year-old person. If we begin to detect the presence of an undesirable chemical in a well's water, we will shut down the well in question. The director of our laboratory can call for the shut down of any well at any time! If the "raw" water coming from a well has a chemical that exceeds the allowable maximum, we can put the raw water through a filtration system which removes any impurities.

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If you have the ability to clean up our drinking water before it gets to my home, why should I care about groundwater pollution?

It's a very simple answer. There is a significant expense in removing pollutants from your water. We can make your drinking water pure by filtering it through special carbon filtration systems. But each of these systems can cost up to a million dollars to construct. Currently, while most of our wells don't need such filters, they are being used on approximately 10% of our wells.

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What are you doing to prevent the pollution of our aquifers?

Since 1990, the SCWA has been in the forefront of aquifer protection by actively pursuing polluters, shutting them down and requiring remediation and restitution. We have also enlarged our wellfields by acquiring larger and larger sites. We sponsor educational programs in local schools and a special research program at Stony Brook University (the Long Island Groundwater Research Institute was conceived, among other things, to research groundwater pollution issues). We also sponsored and essentially wrote the Pine Barrens protection bills that have resulted in setting aside 100,000 acres of pristine watershed areas for future water supplies in central Suffolk. We not only protect our current water supplies, but we are protecting the water supplies of all future generations.

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How does SCWA water stack up against bottled water?

SCWA meets very stringent water quality standards. Not only do we test for chemicals that the federal and state government require -- we test for much more. Standards for bottled water are far less stringent than the standards we meet. In studies done by independent organizations, some bottled water was not all that it had claimed to be. In fact, much of it comes from municipal water systems. Bottled water also creates a tremendous amount of plastic that must be dealt with. Then there is the issue of price. We will deliver 1,000 gallons of water to your sink for about the price of a gallon of bottled water. We have them beat on quality, safety, and price!

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I have a private well. What should I do?

By all means, you should have your water tested at least once a year by a qualified laboratory. The Suffolk County Department of Health Services can help arrange such testing. Private wells tend to be relatively shallow and therefore more likely to pick up surface contaminants. If public water is available in the area where you live, you should give serious thought to hooking up to the public water supply.

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Should I get a water filter just to be safe?

If you are a customer of the Suffolk County Water Authority, it's really not necessary. Your water is tested constantly to ensure it is safe and meets all water quality standards. Some filters will remove chlorine and traces of copper and lead that may be present in your home's plumbing. However, a water filter must be properly maintained, or it could grow bacteria that could make you sick.

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Sometimes I get rust in my water. Why?

Iron is a naturally occurring element in some areas, particularly along Long Island's South Shore. In its natural state, you can't see iron in water. However, as the water meets with air and mixes with chlorine, you can see it. It's not harmful to your health, but it doesn't look very appealing. Some of the iron settles in our water mains and can be disturbed when fire hydrants are opened. This will sometimes result in iron in your tap water.

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What does SCWA do to remove iron from my water?

Several years ago, we embarked on an ambitious program to remove iron from our water in some of our service areas. We investigated numerous technologies available to remove iron from water and have been installing numerous iron removal systems in communities along the South Shore. In those areas where the systems have been installed, the results have been impressive and customer complaints have dropped dramatically. We have also installed water mains to carry water from areas where the water is free of iron to South Shore communities. As you might imagine, these iron removal systems are expensive and can't all be installed at once, but we feel the water we deliver to our customers will be pretty much iron free with a few years.

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Do my tax dollars go to SCWA?

No. SCWA is an independent, not-for-profit, public benefit corporation. We are not part of Suffolk County government. We have no taxing powers. Nearly all of the money we need to operate comes from the sale of water and the sale of our own AA rated tax-free municipal bonds. We operate solely for the benefit of the customers we serve. By the way, our water rates are among the lowest in the country, and our extensive network of fire hydrants helps to keep your homeowners and fire insurance premiums down!

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Automated Meter Reading

What is AMR?

AMR stands for Automated Meter Reading (sometimes referred to as Mobile Automated Meter Reading). It is a method of using communication technology to read meters without having to access a customer's property.

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How does it work?

There are several ways to read a water meter remotely. We've chosen a system that uses a small radio transmitter in the meter. That reading will then be sent via the transmitter to a receiver in a vehicle that’s being driven through your neighborhood.

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How does AMR benefit customers?

  • Improved customer service.
  • Minimized need to access customer property to read meters.
  • No need for customers to read water meters because of access issues.
  • Reduction in estimated bills.
  • Reduction in operational costs, thereby allowing Suffolk County Water Authority to keep your water rates well below the national average.
  • Better for the environment by having fewer vehicles in your neighborhood for a shorter period of time.

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Is this new system really needed?

Suffolk County Water Authority strives to provide the best possible customer service, high reliability and low rates. AMR will help us achieve these goals.

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Is my account information secure?

Yes, only meter consumption readings, meter and module numbers are transmitted. Personal customer information is not loaded into the transmitter and therefore will not be transmitted.

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How will I know that you have my reading and not someone else’s?

Each radio frequency device has a unique identification number, which is transmitted along with the meter reading. The unique number is compared to your account record to ensure a match.

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Will the radio frequency interfere with my television or phones?

No, the AMR frequency is very different and will not interfere.

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Are there health concerns about this type of transmitter?

No, the AMR transmitter falls into the low frequency, non-ionizing electromagnetic field range. The power output is approximately 10 milliwatts (one thousandth of one watt).

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New Construction

What steps must I take to get water to my project?

Generally, most new construction projects occur on undeveloped parcels of land in which roadways are constructed. This, therefore, requires the installation of new water main, fire hydrants, and service lines. It also may necessitate the installation of backflow prevention devices (RPZ) for compliance with Suffolk County Health Department regulations.

Sometimes, the project may be located on a public road where the Authority has existing water supply which will provide adequate supply for the new construction. In this case, water service will consist of the domestic service line, backflow protection, and possibly fire sprinkler service.

For water main extensions, the developer/builder must enter into a contract with the Authority to have the main, fire hydrants, and other appurtenances installed. Detailed site plans, easement information, fire hydrant locations, and service line locations must be supplied to the New Service Department for review. The Authority's New Service Department is the contact point and information source for the installation process. It is important, therefore, to contact the New Service Department in your project area early in the design stage of your project.

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Who can I talk to?

The New Service Department is the source for all the new construction information and transaction processing. When contacting the Authority, ask for the New Service Department. A New Service representative will guide you through the application and new construction process. For water main extensions, one of our new service managers will oversee your project. The New Service Department is located at:

New Construction Service
4060 Sunrise Hwy
Oakdale, NY 11769
(631) 218-1148

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What paperwork do I need to provide and complete?

A site plan is required, which includes tax map numbers and tie-ins to the nearest existing cross streets. For developments and large commercial buildings, five (5) initial site plans are needed. In addition, easement descriptions for all roadways, flow demand, drainage plans, and backflow design plans are required. For water main extensions, a contract and hydrant agreement must be executed. Contract packages, which include easement information, hydrant locations, and other requirements, must be returned complete with the execution of the contract. Incomplete packages will not be accepted.

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How much will it cost?

The following is a schedule of new construction fees:


Water Main Installation

Public roadway water main installation.....$174/ft.*

Unimproved roadway main installations....$120.57/ft*

Maintenance Agreement fee (Optional)....$18.49 /ft.

* Effective during the current construction season (January-December 2020)

** New construction and commercial properties are based on actual costs.

Tapping Fees

Installation of meter vault on an existing 1" service cost is $1,050

1" water service.....................................$3,200

1 1/2" ..................................................$4,700 (plus $1,000 vault fee)

2"........................................................$6,200 (plus $1,460 vault fee)






Services over 4" require DT201 meter vault which is installed at your expense

*Additional fees are required for full flow meters 4" or larger.

**May be subject to additional costs if method of install is by open cut or directional bore in addition to restoration fees..

Inspection fee........................................No charge (first inspection)

Service line reinspection.........................$25 each

** State & county roads may be subject to additional directional boring or open cut costs and restoration fees.

Public Fire Hydrants 

Fire hydrant annual rental........................$160.20 per hydrant

Special Service Area Fees

Delimited areas......................................Established area rate

Surcharges............................................Established contract rate

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What are the stages of the water main installation process?

  • Provide the New Service Department with your site plans and discuss your project with a new service manager

  • Obtain a cost estimate

  • Provide fire hydrant location information and fire district approval

  • Request a contract

  • Execute contract

  • Provide easement information

  • Prepare your site -- install all curbs, drainage, mark service line and hydrant locations, grade all roadways (Appendix 1)

  • Fax Site Preparation Form to our Construction Department (Appendix 2)

  • Remit tapping/service line fees

  • Pipe line inspector will inspect your site for readiness

  • Water main installation is scheduled after site readiness has been verified

  • Water main installation

  • Chlorination of water main

  • Bacteriological sample sent to our laboratory

  • Sample passes, main is plugged and put "in service"

  • Service orders are released to our Construction Department

  • Taps and service lines are installed from the water main to the property line

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How long does the process take?

Generally, from the time the contract is executed it takes 90 to 120 days to complete the installation process. Delays will occur if the proper paperwork has not been provided to the New Service Department and/or the job site has not been prepared properly. (e.g. fire hydrant location approval, easement clearance, etc.)

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What jobsite preparation is required?

To ensure proper installation, the job site must be prepared before our inspector visits the site. All roadways must be on grade with grade stakes installed as appropriate. All service line and hydrant locations must be marked by painting the location on the curb and staking the property line. Drainage and curbing must be installed before we can begin.

The Jobsite Preparation Form, which is included in the contract packet, MUST be faxed to our Construction Department as soon as the site has been prepared. Our site inspector will inspect your project only after the form has been received. (Appendix 1 & Appendix 2).

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What special requirements are necessary for commercial buildings?

Commercial buildings often require additional service. This may include fire sprinkler service, master metering, and backflow prevention devices (e.g. reduced pressure zone device, RPZ). It is important to discuss your specific needs with our New Service Department. Our representative will guide you through the process along with assistance from a new service manager as needed.

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When do I need easements?

Easements are required whenever our water main is to be installed on private property. Generally, the water main is installed only within the public right-of-ways; however, there are instances where private property installations are necessary.

Easements are required for all new subdivision roadways that have not been dedicated to the town. The developer must submit four (4) site maps, along with the easement metes and bounds description, and two (2) copies of our Deed and Mortgage F114 to our New Service Department which will be forwarded to our easement attorney for processing.

In the case of subdivisions requiring easements, the Authority can provide a supplemental agreement to the water main contract. Under the terms of the supplemental agreement, we will begin easement work and construction drawings in consideration of 10% of the contract price (minimum deposit $2,500) against the total contract amount. Once easements are cleared, we will notify you that the remainder of the contract amount is due and that the Authority is ready to proceed with the installation, subject to site preparation.

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What is necessary for fire hydrant installation?

In general, the local fire district's board of fire commissioners must approve all hydrant locations. An approval letter must be signed by the fire commissioner and returned to the New Service Department,, along with a map indicating the approved hydrant locations. The project will not proceed until hydrant locations are approved by the local fire commissioner.

After the hydrant locations have been approved, the developer must enter into a hydrant rental agreement with the Authority to cover the rental cost of hydrants installed on private roadways. For roadways which will be dedicated to the town, the term of this agreement is six (6) years, or until the hydrant rental is assumed by a public fire protection agency, during which time title to the roadway(s) will be transferred to the town.

Fire protection agreements are also required for private hydrants that are not metered. One of our customer service managers will assist you in this procedure.

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What if I only need a service line(s)?

Before a service line can be installed, it must be verified by a site plan/survey that a water main of adequate size currently exists on the roadway adjacent to the site. For large commercial projects, a flow demand letter, indicating daily and peak flows in gallons per minute (G.P.M.) for domestic and fire flow, must be submitted to the New Service Department to ensure proper service sizing and adequate supply. Additional costs are required for full flow meters.

Once the above has been completed, application for service can be made by completing an application card and submitting the appropriate fee(s). (See above.)

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What are the installation requirements for house service lines?

All house service lines must be installed according to the Authority's Rules & Regulations. Each installation MUST be inspected by our representative before being backfilled. Only licensed plumbers can install house service lines. (See (Appendix 3) for installation and inspection details.)

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Do I need a backflow prevention device?

On all new residential homes, the Authority installs a dual check valve on the outlet side of the meter. This provides protection for most residential situations.

Backflow prevention is required for all commercial domestic services as well as all firelines.

Contact our Cross Connection Control Department early on to determine if you will need to install a backflow prevention device.

Click to download our RPZ Booklet

More info on Backflow Devices

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Can SCWA install and maintain water main on my project's site even though the roadways remain private?

Yes! By entering into a water main maintenance agreement, the Authority will install and maintain the water main and fire hydrants on your site. A one-time advance maintenance fee is required. This arrangement is often advantageous when the water main is installed within a commercial complex such as a condominium complex, office park, or school. For more details contact the New Service Department.

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