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Staying Connected on Water Issues

Clean Water NY: What actions are needed to ensure sustainable water resources in the 21st century?
May 6, 2015

The New York State Bar Association's Environmental Law Section presented last year's Legislative Forum on water infrastructure and management. The annual event was another success. We discussed legislation and laws enacted during the session. The panel also included a thoughtful and substantive discussion of the issues regarding our clean water future, a topic that will serve as a precursor to future discussions on this blog, which also provides a basis for providing this summary here.

Our Clean Water NY panel represented a diverse cross-section of organizations, both government and not-for-profits, that are engaged in water resources and infrastructure issues. Among the many important and salient topics discussed:

  • Concern that opposition to water rate increases is often unwarranted, and stagnant rates do not support long term infrastructure asset management goals; investment in infrastructure is a critical component in avoiding future losses in water quality and quantity;
  • Need for government leaders to enable dramatically increased funding for infrastructure upgrades because many systems are in crisis;
  • Need for government-wide support for and adoption of green infrastructure, as a key to promoting stewardship and sustainability;
  • Need for democratizing water resources with an open and transparent review of how our water is managed to determine what water is being lost through water delivery infrastructure and its possible impacts to drinkable water shortages; and there needs to be a focus on water conservation efforts and initiatives by providers and consumers;
  • Local municipalities face a double burden - managing water infrastructure systems, and navigating funding availability and resources to maintain and improve their systems; and,
  • Considerable opportunity for resource planning and inter-municipal work; and need to work on education and outreach and to consider price signals, such as those utilized in energy usage, as a way of productively affecting changes in consumer behavior.

A more detailed article will be included in an upcoming Environmental Lawyer - stay connected.

We would like to extend a special thank you to all of our panelists, which included:

Panel on Clean Water NY

Sandra L. Allen
Director of Policy and Planning
Environmental Facilities Corporation

Joseph Coffey, Jr., P.E.
Commissioner of Water and Water Supply
City of Albany

Harriet D. Cornell
Chair of the Rockland County Task Force on Water Resources Management
Legislator, Rockland County Board of Legislators

William C. Janeway
Executive Director
Adirondack Council

David Kay
Senior Extension Associate with the Community & Regional Development Institute
Department of Development Sociology

Luncheon Keynote Speaker

Alexander "Pete" Grannis
First Deputy Comptroller
State of New York

Pete Grannis formerly served as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He noted that our water resources are critical to economic development throughout the State because several industries rely on high-quality, continuously supplied water, as do New York citizens for their overall health. Mr. Grannis brought a sustainability perspective to statewide water policy and noted two over-arching issues: (1) that New York State currently has no water plan and (2) that our infrastructure is deteriorating in a manner that may affect more than just our immediate water supply.

A special thanks to our participants, to guests, and to the Bar Association for hosting the event at the One Elk Street headquarters, and to the Bar Association team that made the event possible.

John Parker and Jillian Kasow, Co-Chairs
Environmental Law Section, Committee on Legislation

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