Cornell: Newly-Hired Consultants Will Assist Water Task Force

Plan Effort To Involve Public Throughout Process

Meet The Company & Learn The Details Of The Planning Process At 5:30 p.m. On Monday, Oct. 22

New City, NY (Oct. 9, 2018) – After a focused four-year effort, the Rockland County Task Force on Water Resources Management is moving forward with the development of a water management plan that will help Rockland in its pursuit of water independence.

Rockland County Legislator Harriet Cornell, who chairs the Task Force, said the county has hired Manhattan-based Jacobs Civil Consultants, Inc. to help create a Comprehensive Water Conservation Plan.

“The Task Force and its partners have worked diligently to assemble all the pieces in this challenging water resources management puzzle,” Legislator Cornell said. “Among them, watershed studies, green infrastructure modeling projects and the pursuit of state building codes to encourage water efficiency. The combined knowledge obtained from these efforts will now be integrated into a final report that will serve as an action plan.”

The Task Force will meet for the purpose of introducing the firm at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22 in the Legislature’s Chambers in the Allison-Parris County Office Building, 11 New Hempstead Road in New City. Company representatives will make a presentation about the planning process to develop the water conservation plan for Rockland.

The cost for this work is being funded through a $250,000 state grant the Task Force secured in 2016 with the help of Assembly Members Ellen Jaffee and Ken Zebrowski for the specific purposes of developing a water conservation plan, as well as its initial implementation. County Executive Ed Day, a partner in the water resources management effort, has signed the contract.

Among other tasks, Jacobs will assist the Task Force in reviewing current and projected water use demands, developing short- and long-term water-saving targets and developing strategies for meeting the targets. The final report is expected by summer, 2019.

Cornell said the planning process will involve the community, creating partnerships with local organizations, changing behaviors through education to eliminate non-essential water use, and determining if regulations are needed. “I have a lot of faith in Rockland residents’ willingness to learn how to conserve water – in the same way they did in learning the importance of recycling solid waste products,” she said.  Jacobs has a proven track record of providing responsive solutions to the needs of its clients, Cornell said.

“The company has completed successful water conservation projects throughout the U.S. by responding to local needs and creating water conservation plans that can be implemented,” Legislator Cornell said.

Cornell said the company understands the need for public outreach and education, and that the staff that will work on Rockland’s effort have first-hand experience developing policies and incentives to encourage water conservation.

For example, in its work for the City of Waukesha in Wisconsin, Jacobs included education campaigns for schools, information for the public, and stressed stakeholder engagement for a conservation plan that was embraced by the community.

Jacobs is also a member of the Alliance for Water Efficiency and uses AWE tracking tools. Once populated with Rockland’s information, the tools will allow the task force and the county to track progress and update forecasts for years to come, Cornell said.

The Task Force formed in June 2014 following a successful grassroots effort to halt the construction of an expensive and energy-intensive water treatment plant proposed by what was then called United Water New York. It would have drawn its supply from the Hudson River.

The New York state Public Service Commission held hearings in Rockland in October 2013 on whether the plant was needed. Legislator Cornell, then Chair of the Legislature, laid out a plan for a government-community Task Force to take charge of Rockland’s own water future, exploring alternate ways of conserving water. In December 2015, the PSC ordered Suez Water (formerly United Water) to abandon the project.

The Task Force is devoted to identifying ways to implement meaningful reductions in the amount of water used in Rockland, including boosting conservation and reducing water loss due to leaky pipes and fixtures.

Among its successes since forming:

  • Submission of a report by national water conservation and efficiency expert Amy Vickers, Water Losses and Customer Water Use in the United Water New York System. The analysis recommends that a combination of conservation, water reuse technologies, rainwater harvesting and green infrastructure options be tapped to help Rockland further drive down demand and increase water supply independence.

  • A drought model study by consulting Hydrogeologist Dan O’Rourke of CDM Smith. It used data from an earlier study by the U.S. Geological Survey that determined that some Suez New York wells are used at unsustainable rates during high-demand season and then typically replenished during winter months. The drought model study considered whether those rates would be sustainable during an extended period of drought.
  • Completion of a study by Stevens Institute of Technology engineering students under the direction of Dr. Leslie Brunell, P.E., and Dr. Elizabeth Fassman-Beck. The green infrastructure feasibility study focused on groundwater recharge and surface water storage through the installation of permeable parking lots and a rain garden at Rockland Community College.
  • Successfully advocated for statewide changes by the New York State Division of Building Standards and Codes to require the use of more water efficient appliances, including toilets and faucets to cut down on water consumption.

  • Successfully worked to have Rockland County commit to the goals of the new standards through the amendment of the County’s procurement law to require the purchase and installation of water efficient plumbing fixtures in County facilities.

  • Both the TF and the County of Rockland became promotional partners of the US EPA WaterSense program. The program promotes products and partnerships that help people, businesses, or municipalities save water using the best conservation practices. WaterSense developed product labels, model plumbing efficiency standards, partnerships with professional certifying organizations – all to promote water efficiency and conservation culture.
  • Commissioned environmental scientists Dr. Daniel Van Abs of Rutgers University to conduct a Preliminary Assessment of the Ramapo and Hackensack Watersheds in Rockland and Orange Counties, providing a solid foundation for the development of a comprehensive watershed assessment and management plan.
  • A new two-semester study is now underway with Stevens Institute of Technology engineering students and Dr. Leslie Brunell. The first phase involves research to gather and assess existing information about flooding issues in various parts of Rockland. The research will allow the team to identify the causes of flooding, and identify reliable sources of data and information about flooding events. Flooding issues are a major part of the Task Force mission. The students are working closely with the Task Force Flooding Team and in the second semester will select a specific location in the county for a conceptual engineering design of flood mitigation measures. This project is being funded by Rockland’s Soil and Water District, which is an important partner for the Task Force.

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