Recent storms, including Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and Tropical Storms Irene and Lee in 2011, demonstrate that the city’s water and wastewater system has vulnerabilities to extreme weather that must be addressed. To prepare for the future, DEP began implementing climate change resiliency measures early, in 2008 with the Climate Change Program Assessment and Action Plan. Prior to Sandy, DEP was already in the process of performing a detailed climate change study for representative wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations, and drainage areas to determine the potential likelihood and severity of various risks, including storm surge. After Sandy, DEP expanded that study to include all wastewater infrastructure across the city to systematically determine risks and resiliency measures to help prevent future disruptions.
One New York City: One Water
Climate change will affect water resources in New York City from the upstate watershed to New York Harbor. It will demand an innovative response by the City’s water managers, planners, and regulators to meet stringent water quality standard requirements under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act while advancing the City’s sustainability and resiliency objectives. As the largest municipal water utility in the United States, in a city with 520 miles of at-risk coastline and approximately 2,000 square miles of watershed protecting drinking water, DEP must find new ways to maximize its investments by incorporating the latest climate science, affordability, population and water demand projections, tightening regulations, and associated uncertainty.
A Stronger, More Resilient New York
On June 11, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced “A Stronger, More Resilient New York”, a comprehensive plan that contains actionable recommendations both for rebuilding the communities impacted by Sandy and increasing the resilience of infrastructure and buildings citywide.
Heavy rain and other extreme weather events are increasing in New York City and globally, and are projected to increase with Climate Change. Urban areas often face similar challenges and can benefit from exchanging best practices related to managing issues like intense rainfall and sea level rise.
In September 2015, DEP and the City of Copenhagen’s Technical and Environmental Administration signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to develop innovative solutions to prepare for more and heavier downpours or “cloudbursts” brought about by climate change. The goal of the 3-year partnership is to exchange knowledge on the development and management of urban solutions that address shared climate challenges.
In 2016, DEP initiated the first phase of a “Cloudburst Study” to assess risks, prioritize response, develop neighborhood-based solutions, and assign costs and benefits for managing cloudbursts. The study used the approach developed in the City of Copenhagen Cloudburst Management Plan 2012 (PDF) and applied it to Southeast Queens.
Download the NYC Cloudburst Resiliency Planning Study (PDF).
Using 2005 data as a baseline, New York City has set the ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% by the year 2050. Operation and maintenance of DEP’s water supply, stormwater, and wastewater management facilities currently account for 18% of total NYC government emissions. To reduce our carbon footprint, DEP’s sustainability teams have been proactive in tracking and identifying opportunities that offset GHG emissions and/or optimize indirect energy co-benefits.
The Water-Energy Nexus is a study that quantifies the impact of our watershed protection, green infrastructure, water demand management and conservation, and wetland restoration programs on DEP’s overall GHG portfolio. Examining these sustainability initiatives through the Water-Energy Nexus helps to demonstrate which program can provide the greatest GHG and energy reductions.
At the sewershed level, the Water-Energy Nexus Tool considers the energy saved as a result of less demand on our water supply and wastewater treatment systems due to a reduction in water consumption from leak detection and repair, and fixture replacement programs. It also considers the decrease in energy requirements for maintaining and operating our wastewater treatment system because of rain gardens, green roofs and other strategies that capture stormwater before it enters the sewer system. Finally, the study calculates the benefits of carbon sequestration as well as the potential costs of added methane (methanogenesis) for the added vegetation from our green infrastructure and wetland restoration programs.
Wastewater Resiliency Plan