NYC DEP on mission to provide clean water while keeping our waterways free of pollution

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Friday, April 7, 2023
NYC DEP on mission to provide clean water
This year a $2 billion investment will further the DEP's mission to maintain a system that started in the 1840s. Dani Beckstrom reports.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Our world-class city is fueled by a world-class water system that emphasizes equity treating each consumer equally, no matter the neighborhood.

"For nearly 200 years the city of New York has been making big investments over time in a secure water supply that serves all New Yorkers in exactly the same way," Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Rohit Aggarwala said. "Our water system is just about the purest in the world, the water out of your tap is better than almost anything you can buy in a bottle."

This year a $2 billion investment will further the DEP's mission to maintain a system that started in the 1840s, serving around 400,000 people.

Fast-forward a couple of centuries and now the department serves 20 times the quantity while still managing to improve the quality.

Not just for the water we drink, but the water we're surrounded by.

"That's one of the reasons that not only is the water out of our tap so safe, it's why our harbor is getting cleaner and cleaner," Aggarwala said. "Because we're doing a better job of cleaning our sewage, which is why we have seen over the last couple of years dolphins, whales, seahorses, all sorts of life in New York harbor, which even 25 years ago you would never have seen."

The DEP commissioner certainly talks the talk, but does he drink the water?

"I drink it out of the tap, why would I filter water that's better than anything I can buy in a store?" Aggarwala said.

He's not alone.

"I came from Columbus, Ohio and I would filter the water at home but I think the water here is great I don't even filter it," said NYU student Christopher Lee.

"It tastes a lot better, yeah I think I think it's underrated," NYU student Andy Taylor said. "Like comparing it to LA water I think there's definitely a little bit of a difference."

The taste beats out other big cities, and so does the price.

At about a penny a gallon, our water might also be the best bargain which helps ensure water equity across all five boroughs.

The DEP keeps costs low while funding future-focused infrastructure investments like the current 50-year, multi-billion dollar project on a third water tunnel, which is on track to be fully operational by 2032.

"That's where a lot of our water security comes from, it's that for everything we need, we have two or three ways of getting people water," Aggarwala said.

System redundancy is an insurance policy for all of us living in a changing world with a changing climate.

While our warming planet has a better chance of bringing the northeast an excess of water rather than a lack of it, being conscious of conservation and implementing water efficiency projects like the toilet replacement program have already reduced water consumption in New York City by 30% over the last 30 years.

Moving forward the DEP takes its responsibility seriously to keep world-class water flowing through your family's faucet.

"The one city agency that every New Yorker interacts with before 8:00 am is the Department of Environmental Protection," Aggarwala said. "Because whether you brush your teeth or take a shower or use the bathroom, you need our water. So we have a really intimate connection with New Yorkers and I know that all of the people who work at DEP are dedicated to that."

Tune into a three-part documentary series that looks at how environmental pollution, climate change, and aging infrastructure are leading to less access to free, clean drinking water.

The first episode of "Our America: Trouble on Tap" premieres on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22nd at 1:00p.nm. on Channel 7 and streaming on Hulu.

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