Long Island Water Quality

Where Does Our Water Come From?

Water Questions Do you know where your water comes from?

Long Island’s Only Source of Drinking Water: Groundwater Aquifers

The water that flows from every single spigot in Nassau and Suffolk County comes from groundwater aquifers and nowhere else. These aquifers are ours to protect. Nothing is more important than clean water to drink. Clean and safe water is essential for survival. Protecting our water supplies is the foundation of both the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Nobody will come to Long Island’s rescue if continue to contaminate this most precious resource.

Into Our Aquifiers It Goes

Every drop entering Long Island’s groundwater aquifers flows to either a drinking water well or to the nearest stream, lake, bay, or harbor. In much of Suffolk County and northern Nassau County increasing nitrate levels in the aquifers and surface waters can be traced to cesspools and septic systems with additional contributions from fertilizers and air pollution. Cesspools and septic systems also are sources of other contaminants of concern such as pharmaceuticals, organophosphate flame retardants, and household solvents. Similarly, fertilizers are often applied concurrently with herbicides and pesticides that are increasingly being detected in out drinking water aquifers. Thus smart modernization of the way we treat wastewater and care for our yards, fields, and farms can simultaneously reduce nitrogen as well as other pollutants of concern.

Preventing Pollution at the Source

Ben Franklin is credited with saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and this is certainly the case with protecting Long Island's water. Once contaminants enter the groundwater aquifers they are extremely costly and challenging to clean up. But there are solutions. Whether it is through better treatment of our wastewater or reducing fertilizer and pesticide use, by thoughtfully preventing nitrogen pollution at its sources, we can also reduce other contaminants to our waters.

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.