New Legislation Aims to Support Clean Water in New York

The Environmental Bond Act, also known as the Restore Mother Nature Act, would allocate $200 million for wastewater infrastructure projects and $100 million for municipal stormwater projects in New York. The Bond Act may appear on the ballot in November. The main objectives of these initiatives are to reduce agricultural water runoff, address harmful algal blooms, improve and update wastewater infrastructure, reduce and eliminate point source and non-point source discharges to water, establish riparian buffers, and replace lead service lines.

The Bond Act will continue to support funds like the Agricultural Non-point Source Abatement and Control Program, a cost-share grant program that gives funding to prevent potential water quality issues associated with farming activities. The New York State Grown and Certified program helps farmers purchase high-efficiency agricultural irrigation water management systems, which preserve water resources and transport nutrients to reduce the potential of runoff and groundwater contamination. Proper irrigation also produces higher quality crop yields, which benefit both farmers and consumers. The program supports the implementation of Agricultural Environmental Management plans, under which farmers commit to producing products with the highest environmental standards in exchange for funding for soil health and nutrient management equipment.

New York also needs to address stormwater, another type of runoff. Stormwater is water that doesn’t soak into the ground and runs into waterways, collecting pollutants from everything it touches. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, half of impaired waterways in the US are affected by urban/suburban and construction sources of stormwater. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation offers free training for construction workers to provide technical assistance to avoid stormwater-prone structures, and a free Stormwater Interactive Map related to stormwater permit areas.

In addition to fighting water pollutants at their source, New York is committed to using green infrastructure like riparian buffers to combat the effects of water pollution. Riparian buffers are lands bordering bodies of water that are planted with vegetation that stabilize streambanks, filter water, improve fish and wildlife habitats, reduce flood impacts, and control erosion and sediment runoff. The Bond Act will continue to support the numerous federal, state, and local programs that provide funding and technical assistance to create and maintain riparian buffers.

Abating nutrient pollution from farming is one of several approaches to mitigate and eliminate Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB). HABs are clusters of fast-growing algae that occur in places with excess nutrients, lots of sunlight, low-water or low-flow conditions, and warm temperatures. They produce biotoxins that can cause illness, irritation, and viruses in humans and animals. Under the Bond Act, the State will work with Clarkson University, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and other experts to design and implement emergency response equipment to address HABs.

The Bond Act will continue to support New York’s 2017 Clean Water Infrastructure Act by funding more lead service line replacements. Lead can enter drinking water as pipes corrode, or it can leach into residential water systems from other sources. Lead poisoning occurs when high amounts of the metal builds up in the body, and it can have fatal consequences. The Lead Service Line Replacement program will replace the entire length of residential pipelines to reduce the presence of lead in New Yorker’s water systems.

All of these programs aim to provide all New Yorkers with clean drinking water, safe and productive soil, and enjoyable public water recreational space. The Bond Act supports farmers, designers, construction workers, and countless others to maintain the quality of New York’s water supplies.