New York's abundant rivers, streams, lakes and coastal waters are used for recreation, fishing, tourism, agriculture and manufacturing. Dams and other infrastructure help us manage our waters.
Though plentiful, the water resources of the state are threatened by chemical contaminants and other pollutants from a wide range of sources.
The Division of Water provides various programs that track the quality of the waters, identify and investigate sources of pollution, control these sources and develop strategies to address water quality threats. DEC programs regulate and provide guidance on water supply withdrawal. DEC also manages floodplains and coastal areas to reduce flood risk to protect New Yorkers from coastal and inland flooding.
Division of Water Mission
The mission of the Division of Water is to protect and conserve the water resources of New York State. This mission is accomplished through a wide range of programs and activities. Some of these are statewide in their scope and apply to all parts of the state. Other efforts are targeted to address water quality and quantity issues in specific regions of the state, focusing on waterbodies or watersheds where these issues are of particular concern. Still other programs target specific contaminants (e.g., mercury) or sources (e.g., stormwater runoff) or impacts (e.g., acid rain) of pollution.
In addition to the pages listed in the left column, these webpages lead to information about water resources in New York State:
- Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment: monitoring, assessment, impaired waters, Waterbody Inventory/Priority Waterbodies List, harmful algal blooms (HABs), total maximum daily loads (TMDLs)
- Wastewater Treatment Resources: asset management, wastewater treatment plant operation
- Water Quality Management: source water protection, standards and classifications, nonpoint source pollution, Nine Element Watershed Management Plans, lawn fertilizer
- Wastewater Permits: State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permits (SPDES) (municipal wastewater permits, industrial permits, CAFO permits, Vessel General Permit)
- Stormwater: stormwater pollution, stormwater permits for industries, municipalities, and construction
- Water Withdrawal, Conservation, and Drought: water withdrawal permits and reporting, well contractor program, droughts
- Dam Safety, Coastal, and Flood Protection: dam safety, coastal erosion management and permits, flood protection, floodplain management
- Watersheds and Watershed Programs
- Technical and Operational Guidance Series (TOGS): information on program delegation, special assignments, and explanation and technical detail for day-to-day operation of the Division of Water responsibilities
- Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force: report and technical appendix
What's New in the Division of Water?
This section is updated monthly and topics are typically posted here for about 60 days. If a topic has a specific end date (such as a public comment period or an event), the description is removed after the end date.
Navigating Grant Funding: Municipal Success Stories Webinar
DEC and the NYS Association of Regional Councils hosted and recorded a webinar on March 1, 2023, to highlight strategies used by municipalities of various sizes across New York State to secure grant funding. Municipalities shared information, such as how they access grant funds, what barriers they've had to overcome, lessons learned, the skill sets needed, and the key players necessary to access grant funding. If you are looking to fund a project, the Division of Water encourages you to view this webinar recording (leaves DEC's website).
Look for the Zero: Use Only Phosphorus-Free Lawn Fertilizer
DEC encourages homeowners to go phosphorus-free when using lawn fertilizer. Consumers should review bag labels for phosphorus content when shopping for fertilizer. Fertilizer labels have three numbers. The number in the middle is the percentage of phosphorus in the product, so a zero in the middle means the fertilizer is phosphorus free.
Regardless of the lawn's location, excess phosphorus can wash off and pollute lakes and streams, harming fish and ruining boating and swimming. More than 100 water bodies in New York State cannot be used due to phosphorus overuse. For more information, visit DEC's Lawn Fertilizer webpage.
ELAP Certification Required for Labs Conducting Whole Effluent Toxicity Tests
Starting January 1, 2023, DEC requires municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities to use labs certified under the NYS Department of Health (DOH) Environmental Laboratory Approval Program (ELAP) for all Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) testing.
DEC encourages the wastewater treatment facilities that are required to complete WET testing after January 1, 2023 to ensure that the lab they are using has received the DOH ELAP certification or is in the process of obtaining it. Taking this step may avoid potential compliance issues.
New York Harmful Algal Blooms Notification and Reporting System
When it comes to HABs, DEC encourages New Yorkers to:
- Know It - HABs vary in appearance from scattered green dots in the water, to long, linear green streaks, pea soup or spilled green paint, to blue-green or white coloration.
- Avoid It - People, pets and livestock should avoid contact with water that is discolored or has algal scums on the surface.
- Report It - The public should report a suspected HAB through the NYHABs online reporting form available on DEC's website. Report health concerns related to HABs to DOH at [email protected], or contact your local health department.
Most algae blooms are harmless. However, exposure to toxins and other substances from certain HABs can make people and animals sick.
For more information about HABs, visit DEC's Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) webpage. You can download the HABs brochure and program guide - which includes information and links to resources regarding bloom prevention, management and control - from the webpage.
Division of Water Bureaus
Bureau of Flood Protection and Dam Safety
The Bureau of Flood Protection and Dam Safety cooperates with federal, state, regional, and local partners to protect lives and property from floods, coastal erosion and dam failures through floodplain management and both structural and non-structural means.
- Coastal Erosion and Floodplain Management Section - The Coastal Erosion branch of this section works to reduce coastal erosion and storm damage to protect lives, natural resources, and properties through structural and non-structural means. The Floodplain Management branch is responsible for reducing flood risk to life and property through proper management of activities including development in flood hazard areas, and review and development of revised flood maps.
- Dam Safety Section - Responsible for reviewing repairs and modifications to dams, and assuring that dam owners operate and maintain dams in a safe condition through inspections, technical reviews, enforcement, and emergency planning.
- Flood Control Projects Section - Responsible for reducing flood risk to life and property through construction, operation and maintenance of flood control facilities.
Bureau of Water Assessment Management
The mission of the Bureau of Water Assessment Management is to monitor the waters of the state, review data and information to evaluate these waters, and report on the quality and the ability of these waters to support uses. The Bureau also conducts research to better define the nature of pollutants, sources and impacts on waters and their uses, and provides support for the development of management strategies to enhance and protect these waters.
- Streams Monitoring and Assessment Section
- Lakes Monitoring and Assessment Section
- Standards and Analytical Support Section
- Water Assessment and Implementation Section
Bureau of Water Permits
Bureau of Water Permits implements the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) to protect, manage and conserve New York State surface and groundwater through:
- Developing, renewing and modifying individual SPDES permits for municipal (including Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs)), industrial and commercial entities that limit the discharge of pollutants to meet state and federal requirements.
- Developing, renewing and modifying the following general permits that limit the discharge of pollutants to meet state and federal requirements:
- Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s)
- Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP)
- SPDES General Permits for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activity
- Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
- Vessel (Ballast Water) Discharges for most commercial vessels greater than 79 feet in length that operate in US waters
- Pesticide Applications to Surface Waters of New York State
- Private, Commercial, or Institutional (PCI) Facilities discharging 1,000 to 10,000 gallons per day of sanitary waste to groundwater
- Reviewing Engineering Reports, Plans and Specifications to ensure wastewater treatment plant designs conform to applicable design standards
- Providing asset management guidance for Publicly Owned Treatment Works
- Maintaining NYS Design Standards for Intermediate Sized Wastewater Treatment Systems
- Implementing the Environmental Benefit Permit Strategy (EBPS) priority ranking system
Bureau of Water Compliance
- State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Compliance Information Section - Covers SPDES and facility information; Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMRs); MS4 General Permit compliance; Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) compliance; wastewater treatment plant operator certification.
- Upstate Compliance Assurance Section - Covers DEC Regions 4 - 9; SPDES/Water Integrated Compliance Strategy System (WICSS) compliance; enforcement coordination; compliance liaison with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- Metropolitan Compliance Assurance Section - Covers DEC Regions 1 - 3; New York City wastewater treatment facility compliance and enforcement; compliance liaison with EPA
- Fiscal Planning and Management Section - Covers EPA Core Grants (PPG, 604b); EPA Watershed Grants (Chesapeake Bay, Lake Champlain, Great Lakes, Long Island Sound); FEMA Grants; USGS Contracts; State Assistance and Service Contracts, MOU's, Cooperative Agreements; Attachment As; Budget & Spending Plan Management; Purchasing/Procurement Equipment - Contractual Services
Bureau of Water Resource Management
The Bureau of Water Resource Management works to protect, manage, and conserve New York State's groundwater and surface water supply sources, develop management strategies to enhance and protect these waters, and protect both the groundwater and surface water quality in the New York City Watershed and other major watersheds. The Bureau's work includes programs for water withdrawal permitting, which includes analysis and approval of aquifer (pumping) tests and reservoir capacity; drought management; Great Lakes water withdrawal registration; statewide annual water withdrawal reporting; groundwater; interstate water supply partnerships; reservoir releases; water conservation; and water well drillers registration. The Bureau provides geotechnical assistance to local, state, federal, and industrial/commercial entities, and has partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for over 35 years to conduct a cooperative statewide aquifer mapping program. The Bureau also manages DEC's water quality and watershed protection programs for the New York City water supply system, including Federal Safe Drinking Water Act grants, compliance for SPDES permits within the watershed, and technical assistance and training for wastewater treatment facility operators within the watershed. The Bureau works with stakeholders and partners to improve water quality, provides funding for Water Quality Improvement Projects, and conducts outreach and communication activities. The Bureau's responsibilities also include developing and managing a geographic information system (GIS) that provides information and data about New York State's waters.
- Water Quantity Management Section
- Watershed Section A
- Watershed Section B
- Watershed Section C • Stormwater: stormwater pollution, stormwater permits for industries, municipalities, and construction