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November 2017

Left to right: Nancy Seligson, Supervisor of the Town of Mamaroneck; Steve Robbins, for Woodard and Curran; and Steve Birdsall, from Westchester Joint Water Works. Photo by Linette Tsu.

Local Officials Discuss Protecting Our High-Quality Water

by Nina Recio


At its October public breakfast program, the Local Summit turned the community’s attention to the quality of our local water in a program entitled, “All About Our Tap Water”.  Heading the panel of four speakers, Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson, who is also a trustee for Westchester Joint Water Works (WJWW), described the New York City water supply, which is the source of our water, as one of the great water systems in the world.  “It’s cheap, too!,” Supervisor Seligson declared, noting that it costs consumers less than one penny per gallon.


New York City uses one billion gallons of water a day for its own use and we consume 4 million gallons of water per day. The water delivered to our homes, explained Supervisor Seligson, is part of an “unfiltered surface water system” and she asserted that it is “more reliably clean and safer than bottled water”, and doesn’t generate plastic and glass for recycling or disposal.


Panelist Steve Robbins, Project Manager and Associate Principal at environmental engineering firm, Woodard and Curran, concurred that we have “a great water supply” and explained how it is drawn from the NYC watershed in the Catskills, flows through the Catskill and Delaware Aqueducts and ends up at the Kensico Reservoir.  Robbins described how our water is part of a gravity-run system that flows through miles of 30-inch piping before arriving at our homes.  During the process, the water is chlorinated, fluoride is added and it undergoes UV disinfection.


WJWW, a public benefit corporation, purchases the water we use from New York City and provides it to our communities.  David Birdsall, Business Director of WJWW, described the water system as “self-funding,” meaning that it is not funded by general taxes.  It is paid for based upon each consumer’s usage.


Consumers in the Town of Mamaroneck are billed on a monthly basis as new meters were installed that can be read by vehicles. Soon, however, the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system will be installed eliminating the need for the vehicles. The Village of Larchmont, which operates its own water department, already has the AMI.  Its residents are billed on a semi-annual basis, according to Larchmont Village Manager Justin Datino, but the Village is moving toward a quarterly billing system.  Messrs. Birdsall and Datino agreed that there is little difference in the cost of water among the local municipalities, although the billing rates are different as Mamaroneck has an escalating rate and Larchmont utilizes a bifurcated rate.


Protecting and maintaining the system is vitally important, advised the speakers. Fire protection is the most important use of water.  Hydrants are flushed to verify their proper functioning and identify weaknesses in the infrastructure. WJWW schedules improvements and repairs to coincide with work on public roads. System redundancy is critical for the smooth operation of the water system. Regular testing of the water is performed. Leak detection is a big priority for the Village of Larchmont.

Security is also a concern and cameras have been installed at all WJWW facilities, sites and pump stations.  New York City has also invested money to enhance security, including purchasing parcels of land adjacent to its upstate sites.


The speakers offered recommendations to the public for conservation and protection of our water supply.  Among the suggestions proffered by Mr. Datino is for users to modify settings on any irrigation systems to reduce peak-time usage.  Mr. Birdsall advised consumers to install back-flow valves and rain sensors.


Audience members raised concerns about NYC’s plan to shut Water Tunnel #1 for cleaning which would force consumption reductions in Westchester.  Mr. Birdsall stated that WJWW is working on a demand management plan with NYC to address this issue.  WJWW is also working with New York State to comply with federal requirements for the filtration system pursuant to an earlier court settlement.


This breakfast forum was hosted by the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Local Summit, an informal community council that seeks to make life better for all in the tri-municipal area.  Its monthly meetings are held at the Nautilus Diner in Mamaroneck Diner at 7:45 a.m., usually on the third Tuesday of the month.  The next meeting will take place on November 14 and will explore entertainment options in the community.