December 9, 2021

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New York State Infrastructure by the numbers

In New York State there are approximately 10,147 regulated water systems (3,312 community water systems, 6,080 non-community transient water systems, and 755 non-transient non-community water systems), serving a population of approximately 18.2 million people. These figures do not include the significant number of private residential wells being utilized throughout the state.

Many of the systems mentioned above, including New York City, are nearing or have already exceeded 100 years of age and still utilize some of their original drinking water infrastructure. Various water system components have life cycles which can range from 20 years (pumps, filter media, etc.) to 50 years (storage tanks, treatment plants) to over 100 years (transmission and distribution mains). Climate related factors including snow load, ice formation and freeze/thaw cycles can significantly shorten the useful life of certain water system components.

New York State is home to some of the oldest continuously settled communities in North America, and some of the water infrastructure is nearly as old. Many of New York’s water system assets are near or past their suggested useful lives. Water mains that carry water throughout the system, transmission lines to specific users, and the pump tanks and treatment facilities are susceptible to deterioration, leading to long-term – sometimes substantial – water loss from leaks, but more commonly evidenced by water main breaks.

The City of New York’s water system is the prime example. It has components that date from the mid-nineteenth century and has become very large and complex. It supplies about one billion gallons of water per day to nine million customers through a system of dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, water tunnels and approximately 6,700 miles of water mains.

NYC maintains over 6,800 miles of in-city water mains, 109,000 fire hydrants, 148,000 catch basins, and 7,500 miles of in-city sewers. Water service disruptions are often caused by construction, water or sewer main breaks, or blockages in the pipes. In recent years however, there have been improvements. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced that during Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 New York City recorded the fewest water main breaks in any year on record. During FY 2020, which ended on June 30, there were 347 water main breaks - 25 percent fewer water main breaks than the previous FY (460), and a 45 percent drop from FY 2000, when there were 621.

The New York City DEP operates one of the most complex water and wastewater systems in the world. It manages a network of 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes that cover approximately 2,000 square miles of watershed land as far as 125 miles upstate. The City’s drinking water system is the largest unfiltered water supply in the world, delivering approximately one billion gallons of high-quality drinking water each day to nine million New Yorkers.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers' assessment for New York State:
  • $22.8bn is needed for drinking water infrastructure over next 20 yrs,
  • $31.4 bn for wastewater
  • there are 424 high hazard dams
  • 122 miles of levees protect $6.1 bn worth of property in New York
  • there are 121 Superfund sites with hazardous waste
  • 17,540 bridges in the state, 9% are structurally deficient
  • 390 miles of inland waterways
  • 4 ports


There is a water main break every two minutes with an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water lost each day in the U.S., enough to fill over 9,000 swimming pools.

There are 30,000 miles of inventoried levees across the U.S., and an additional 10,000 miles of levees whose location and condition are unknown.

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