Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he will sign a new law to protect New York's waters and the Great Lakes by requiring a state permit for the withdrawal of large volumes of water from the state's rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater.
The new law is designed to foster responsible conservation practices and economic growth while protecting water bodies and wildlife habitats. The permitting process will ensure a continued water supply to existing municipal, agricultural and industrial users, and will help identify areas that could support new water-dependent businesses. Specifically, the law requires approval before operating or proposing a system with the capacity to withdraw 100,000 gallons or more per day of surface and groundwater.
"The preservation and protection of New York's water resources is vital to the state's residents, farmers and businesses," Governor Cuomo said. "This law will enhance the state's ability to manage its water to promote economic growth and address droughts while protecting the environment. My administration worked with a broad array of interests to ensure a balanced program that manages significant water withdrawals across the state and protects New York's farmers and businesses from undue regulatory burdens."
The law ensures water withdrawals throughout the state are regulated with a holistic approach. DEC proposed this law to significantly enhance the state's ability to manage water supplies in response to climate change, droughts, natural resource protection, future water supply demands from outside New York and other unanticipated threats in the future.
Significantly, this law will enable DEC to comply with commitments under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Compact) by regulating all significant water withdrawals occurring in the New York portion of the Great Lakes Basin. The law also directs DEC to establish an effective water conservation and efficiency program, which is another key responsibility of states under the Compact. This legislation also increases penalties to deter violations that threaten the quality and quantity of the state's water resources.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said, "This new law will enable DEC to do its part to protect the valuable resources of the Great Lakes while also enhancing the state's ability to manage water resources in response to climate change, droughts and future demands. Good policy and sound natural resource management practices are critical to assuring long-term supplies of water are available to meet the needs of the state's residents, businesses and farmers. Managing water withdrawals will help DEC protect existing water uses and help new water-dependent businesses know where to locate in New York."
Senator Mark Grisanti, Chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said, "Passage of this monumental legislation will protect our environment by regulating the amount of water that can be extracted. Under current law, the state does not have the proper oversight to regulate water withdrawals, and with this legislation they will be able to better protect our state's greatest natural resource its water. This protection is critical throughout New York, as well as in Western New York where the Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world's fresh water. This legislation is supported by both the environmental and business community and shows how working together can achieve sound and necessary environmental policy. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership on this important issue, and I look forward to continuing to work together to protect our environment and all the citizens of New York."
Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, Chairman of Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation said, "New York State is fortunate to have an abundant supply of water. This law will help the state to remain vigilant in the preservation and protection of this resource. Water is vital to New York's residents and businesses, for drinking, agriculture, commerce and recreation. The measure will help ensure that future generations of New Yorkers can enjoy a vibrant, healthy environment and a healthier and more prosperous future."
The Great Lakes and their watersheds contain more than 18 percent of the world's supply and nearly 90 percent of the United States' supply of fresh surface water. Only about one percent of the water volume is renewed or replaced by precipitation and tributary inflow each year. Consequently, Great Lakes levels can be drawn down dramatically by sizeable water withdrawals. Large withdrawals could adversely affect wetland habitat, spawning grounds, municipal and agricultural water supplies, recreational boating access and hydropower production.
As the nation's population increases and water supplies in other regions are consumed, pressure to utilize Great Lakes water outside the region will grow. This valuable resource must be carefully managed to ensure that it continues to provide environmental and economic benefits for future generations. This law will ensure that New York upholds its commitments under the Compact.