The Nature Conservancy in New York Celebrates World Water Day

From Long Island to the Adirondacks to the Great Lakes, The Nature Conservancy is working to protect clean water for New Yorkers and nature.

New York, NY | March 22, 2017

In honor of World Water Day, The Nature Conservancy in New York is celebrating the many ways we protect clean water for people and nature. New York City’s drinking water may be world-renowned, but freshwater is bountiful across the state: New York has more than 7,600 freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs, more than 70,000 miles of rivers and streams, and waterfront access to two Great Lakes. 

“We are excited to celebrate a day dedicated to one of our most important natural resources: water. We all depend on clean water – people and nature alike – and it is crystal clear that in order to ensure clean water for generations to come, we must invest in protecting our water today,” said Stuart F. Gruskin, Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer at The Nature Conservancy in New York. “Here in New York, the Conservancy is working with partners at all levels to safeguard the health and abundance of our waters across the state – from Long Island to the Adirondacks to the Great Lakes.” 

World Water Day was created by the United Nations more than 20 years ago to draw attention to the global challenges surrounding water. This year’s theme is wastewater, which can contaminate drinking water if improperly managed. 

On Long Island, nitrogen pollution threatens public health, the local economy, and wildlife. The problem is similar to over-fertilizing a garden; in coastal waters however, the excess nitrogen causes toxic algae blooms, massive fish kills, and beach closures. Essential to human health, clean water is also the cornerstone of Long Island’s economy. A recent analysis conducted by the University of Connecticut with The Nature Conservancy found that nearly half of Long Island’s gross metropolitan product – $153 billion in 2013 – comes from water-reliant businesses, including the health care, real estate, and tourism sectors. 

After discovering the major source of the nitrogen pollution – untreated wastewater – the Conservancy began working with local and state governments to invest in upgrades to residential septic systems and cesspools to remove nitrogen before it leaches into the groundwater and pollutes waterways. The Conservancy led a coalition that resulted in the passage of ballot initiatives in five East End towns, ensuring $2 billion in conservation funding, including up to $700 million for water quality. The Conservancy has made improving Long Island’s water quality a priority, and now, Long Island is on the path to recovery. 

“Without the efforts of The Nature Conservancy over the last five years, Long Island would not be ready now to finally address the causes of nitrogen pollution at their sources. The Conservancy’s well-positioned use of resources and strategic partnering with other key organizations on Long Island has changed the entire conversation. It’s been gratifying to create and share that progress with the leadership of TNC,” said Bob Deluca, President and Executive Director of the Group for the East End.  

In Albany, Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature have signaled a welcome and significant commitment to clean water with pending proposals to invest billions of dollars in water quality and infrastructure projects. Both the Governor and the Assembly have proposed $2 billion each, and the Senate has proposed a $5 billion clean water bond act. A key aspect of the Assembly’s proposal is the inclusion of $110 million for source water protection. A 2012 study by the Trust for Public Land found that it is 10 times cheaper to deliver drinking water to communities when water is protected as its source. The Nature Conservancy is working to ensure that the final budget agreement includes a major, multi-billion-dollar investment in clean water funding, and we are urging that the any investment in water quality must proactively protect water at is source and include a program to address septic system and cesspool upgrades. 

Protecting water at its source is especially important. New York City’s watershed in the Catskill Mountains is the largest unfiltered water supply in the country, providing more than 1.2 billion gallons of drinking water each day. By protecting and investing in reservoirs and surrounding lands, New York City secured clean, affordable drinking water while avoiding the need for a costly filtration plant. The Nature Conservancy uses water markets in cities around the world to restore watersheds and improve water security.​

Healthy wetlands improve water quality and prevent coastal erosion and flooding, benefitting shoreline communities, the economy, and the environment. Last December, the U.S. and Canadian Governments finalized Plan 2014, the largest wetlands restoration effort in the country outside of the Florida Everglades. By mimicking natural ebbs and flows, the water flowing from the Moses-Saunders Power Dam will restore 64,000 acres of valuable wetlands in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River watersheds. This action will not only improve the environment and protect shoreline communities, but it will also support job creation and boost upstate economic development, contributing an estimated $12 million per year to New York’s economy. 

Learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s work protecting New York’s waters at

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

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Victoria O'Neill
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(212) 524-8050


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