The Suffolk County Water Authority says that it is seeing success with its water conservation plan and that customers are adopting water savings measures. SCWA adopted a new comprehensive water conservation plan at the beginning of this year that set new rules for lawn watering, enhanced credits for installing water saving devices and started an extensive outreach and messaging campaign to stress the importance of water conservation. With the summer and the lawn watering season ending, SCWA says that peak pumping rates were lower than in 2022, despite droughts in both years.
“We understand that it’s going to be multi-effort to change behavior in Suffolk County,” said SCWA Chairman Charles Lefkowitz. “Many of our customers have habits built over a lifetime and we are asking them to change that for the good of the water system. Even though this was just the first year of this new effort, we are already seeing that our customers are changing to the odd/even lawn watering schedule and taking other steps to reduce their water use. We will keep at it over time, but we are pleased to see some early success.”
Central to SCWA’s conservation plan was the adoption of an odd/even watering policy that instructs customers to only water their lawns on the calendar dates that correspond to their street address. Homes or businesses with odd numbered street address should only water on odd numbered calendar dates and homes or businesses with even numbered street address should only water on even numbered calendar dates.
The odd/even policy is intended to reduce peak demand on the system to ensure that there is adequate supply of water to serve all customers. SCWA says that data from this year shows that the policy is working. Despite this summer’s drought, the highest level of pumping reached by SCWA this year was 515,720 gallons per minute, a 3.4% reduction from the peak last year of 533,338 gallons per minute. That difference represents the capacity of about 15 large supply wells.
SCWA also increased the amount it offers in WaterWise credits to customers who install water saving devices, like smart controllers for automatic sprinkler systems and low-flow shower heads. Previously, SCWA offered $50 over the entire lifetime of an account in credits. With the new conservation plan, that amount was increased to $250 every three years, allowing customers to get money back for multiple devices. The program has seen its most successful year as more than 1,500 customers have received a credit so far. That is already higher than any previous year.
To promote these new measures, SCWA began a proactive outreach campaign to its customers using digital, radio and newspaper ads to inform customers of the new policies. That was bolstered by direct outreach efforts with phone messages, emails and supplemental information on customer bills. During the summer, SCWA held four community meetings focused on drinking water that it calls WaterTalks. The meetings put special emphasis on the importance of water conservation, allowing SCWA staff to make direct appeals to hundreds of customers.
SCWA Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Szabo says that outreach will continue into the future, saying “We are making water conservation one of our top priorities because if we can reduce water demand than we can avoid building costly additional infrastructure. It makes financial sense for the Authority and for our customers because it helps us keep our rates low. We are going to keep letting our customers know how they can reduce their water use because water conservation is the smart thing to do.”
Cathy Haas, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 1 Director said, “Preservation of Long Island’s sole source aquifer is vital to our communities and the environment. The Suffolk County Water Authority’s efforts to conserve New York’s natural resources are critical and DEC applauds Long Island residents for taking up the call and reducing their water usage.”
The Suffolk County Water Authority is an independent public-benefit corporation operating under the authority of the Public Authorities Law of the State of New York. Serving approximately 1.2 million Suffolk County residents, the Authority operates without taxing power on a not-for-profit basis.