Paddleboard Long Island We need to invest in our water quality to ensure we can continue to enjoy our favorite outdoor activities. © Red Vault Productions

Long Island Water Quality

A New Perspective


A New Perspective Evelyn O'Doherty is a year-round stand-up paddleboard racer, paddler, surfer and yoga teacher who lives in East Hampton.

We're in a Decline

On Long Island, many of the symptoms of nitrogen pollution, such as harmful algae blooms and loss of seagrass meadows, are getting worse. Nitrates and other contaminants that originate from septic systems, lawn care, and agriculture are also increasing in Long Island's underground drinking water supply. However, there is good news! In places where we have made investments to clean-up our waters things are improving. For example, we have added extra treatment to the Long Island Sound sewage plants, causing the "dead zone" in the western Sound to shrink considerably. With modest investments in our future we can reverse the decline of our waters.

Septic Systems That Don't Risk the Eco-Systems

It turns out that with some relatively minor changes in septic system design, up to 90% of the reactive nitrogen and many other contaminants of concern (such as pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals from personal care products) can be removed before household wastewater is returned to the ground. With the aid of Stony Brook University's Waste Water Technology Center, Suffolk County Department of Health Services is expected to approve such clean water septic systems for use in 2016. This is the first step in transitioning away from the old cesspits and leaching pools that have been proven to be impacting Long Island's drinking water and surface water.

On Long Island, water sports are a way of life.
Paddle Boarders On Long Island, water sports are a way of life. © Red Vault

Being Part of the Solution

Baba Dioum famously said, "In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught." We should not underestimate the value of bringing family, friends, and neighbors to the beach, or on a boat, or paddle boarding - connecting them with the natural surroundings of their island home, and making them aware of what is currently at stake. Each of us will need to inspire our neighbors to become part of the solution. Learn what you can do now at

Explore Local Stories About Water Quality

We're Oyster Farmers
An oyster farm with 1 million oysters can filter 50 million gallons of water per day, making them a critical piece in protecting Long Island's water quality from nitrogen pollution
Southwest Nassau County
Jim's Solution
A Freeport junkman Jim Ruocco has witnessed what happens when 50 million gallons per day of minimally treated sewage effluent are discharged into a poorly flushed estuary.
Answers & Solutions
As a fishermen and scientist, Carl LoBue ponders what our successors will think about the decisions we make today, and how those decisions will impact the island’s fishing future.
Shelter Island
See how Long Island’s smallest township is a microcosm of the region-wide water quality problem.
On Display
When the new Great South Bay inlet created by superstorm Sandy opened up, it formed an 8-mile undeveloped stretch of Fire Island called the Otis Pike High Dunes Wilderness Area.
It's Imperative
Mastic Beach
Mayor Maura Sperry talks about how water quality affects one of Long Island’s most flood-prone communities.
Something Lost
George Remmer, commercial fisherman, restaurant owner, and college professor, laments the changes he has seen around Great River, Grand Canal and Great South Bay.
Collapse of a Legacy
North Sea
Howard Pickerel has hand-built 600 boats in his backyard. Pickerel boats were at one time the backbone of Long Island’s shellfishing industry.
A New Perspective
Evelyn O'Doherty is a year-round stand-up paddleboard racer, paddler, surfer and yoga teacher who lives in East Hampton.
On Georgica Pond
Even Long Island’s most bucolic communities are not immune to the effects of nitrogen pollution.
A Chef's Connection
Forty years ago Bruce Bollman had a vision that Long Island’s North Fork would become a destination calling for gourmet artisanal eateries.