United States
Environmental Protection
Office of Water
            December 1996
New York City Watershed

   Since 1991, the U.S. EPA has been promoting the watershed approach as a mechanism
   to achieve the next generation of water protection. In each watershed, or drainage area,
   different "drivers" for action -- legal requirements and/or State or local concerns ~
   guide residents and other stakeholders to identify and assemble solutions. Below is a
   description of the New York City Watershed agreement where the Safe Drinking Water
   Act served as the " driver"  for using a watershed approach. It has made a difference.

The system:

Nine million residents of New York City and
surrounding suburbs rely for the source of
their drinking water on a series of reservoirs
located many miles away in the Catskill and
Delaware watersheds in upstate New York.
New York City owns less than 10 percent of
the watershed, which covers roughly 1,900
square miles.  The Catskill/Delaware water-
shed has a year-round population of around
77,000, as well as a significant number of
summer residents. Dairy farms comprise a
majority of the 350 farms there.

For many decades, relations between New
York City and the watershed areas have been
marked by controversy and conflict, focusing
on the City's past acquisitions of reservoir
lands and the use of regulatory and manage-
ment authority in the watershed.  In 1989,
EPA's Surface Water Treatment Rule
(SWTR), issued under the federal Safe
Drinking Water Act, required filtration of all
surface water supplies (rivers and lakes) to protect against microbial contamination of drink-
ing water.  This requirement can be waived if a water system's treatment processes and
natural conditions provide safe water and if the watershed is actively protected to ensure that
safety in the future.  Under the SWTR's authority, EPA has worked with New York City, New
York State, and local communities on a program to implement this watershed protection
requirement in the Catskill/Delaware watersheds.

The stresses:
Although New York City residents have enjoyed superior drinking water for 150 years
because of its high quality upland supplies, the potential for microbial contamination has
become an increasing concern as evidenced by a series of boil water alerts since 1993.
Wastewater discharges from treatment plants (some operated by New York City) and runoff
from urban and agricultural sources, which contribute both microbial pathogens as well as
phosphorus, are the primary pollution sources.

The strategy:

In 1993, EPA issued New York City a waiver of the filtration requirement on condition that
the City would take numerous steps to maintain and protect the Catskill/Delaware's drinking
water quality.  EPA then urged the Governor to convene a group representing New York City,
New York State, watershed communities, the U.S. EPA, and environmental groups to negoti-
ate an effective and equitable watershed program. It was hoped that such a program would
enable the City to meet the waiver conditions, protect the City's water supply while avoiding
the multi-billion dollar cost of a filtration plant for Catskill/Delaware water supplies, and
address the concerns and goals of residents in the upstate counties.

The negotiations produced a landmark agreement which successfully resolves long-standing
controversies and sets forth responsibilities and benefits for all major parties. The City will
finalize its regulations for watershed land uses, acquire sensitive lands to protect key reser-
voirs and waterways, conduct more extensive water quality testing in the watershed, and
support upstate/downstate partnership programs (including major investments in wastewater
treatment facility upgrades, a fund for compatible economic development in the watershed,
and a regional watershed partnership council). New York State will adopt the City's water-
shed regulations and land acquisition permits consistent with implementation of the overall
agreement and establish a new Watershed Inspector General's Office to ensure that the City's
regulations are implemented to protect public health. EPA will continue to oversee New
York City's filtration waiver and the City and State's action to implement the agreement.
Finally, watershed residents can develop property to the extent the regulations allow, or sell it
to the City if they choose. In addition, upstate community representatives will participate in
the regional watershed partnership council, which will include representatives of the State,
City, and downstate consumers.
                                           Watershed Agricultural Program Pilot Farm

Measures of Progress:
The agreement represents historic progress by moving New York City and the Catskill/Delaware
watersheds past many decades of controversy towards a commitment to complementary, mutu-
ally-beneficial goals and solutions. New York City has an opportunity to save its ratepayers
billions of dollars by avoiding filtration while protecting drinking water quality through targeted
land acquisition and other water quality investments and regulations requiring that watershed
development be environmentally sustainable. Watershed residents can build a future with im-
proved water quality, a better-protected, amenity-rich landscape, and compatible economic
development.  For further information about the New York City Watershed Protection Pro-
gram, please call 718-595-5371.
                                                           Sewage Treatment

    "...we have put aside the suspicions that have existed far too long between the downstate
    communities and their upstate neighbors. This agreement does what many thought impos-
    sible: it protects the 1,900 square mile watershed from degradation while allowing upstate
    communities the ability to grow and develop in an environmentally responsible manner."
                                       - Governor Pataki, State of New York
     EPA Region 2 was a key player in the negotiations among the New York City watershed
     interests. EPA agreed to extend New York City's filtration avoidance determination,
     allowing time to help design and implement a comprehensive watershed protection
     program while insuring compliance with the Federal drinking water regulations.  For
     more information, contact EPA Region 2 at (212) 637-3725 or on the world wide web at

     Nationally, EPA has been reorienting its programs and developing tools to facilitate the
     watershed approach since 1991. With regard to drinking water, EPA has been working to
     build capabilities for source water protection.  The 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drink-
     ing Water Act provide new programs, tools and resources for such protection. For more
     information on the watershed approach, please contact the EPA at 401 M Street, S.W.,
     Mailcode 460.1 (for drinking water issues) or 4501F (for watershed issues), Washington,
     DC  20460 or visit us on the world-wide web at URL:http://www.epa.gov/OW/.