Fewest Water Main Breaks Ever

Published on September 14, 2020, 3:57 am
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The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today 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.

“Delivering a reliable supply of water to all New Yorkers is one of our primary missions and driving down the number of water main breaks to a new low is a testament to the hard work of our staff,” said DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.  “Mayor de Blasio has made it a priority to keep our essential infrastructure in a state of good repair and during this past year he further focused resources on the upkeep of the City’s water distribution network.”

New York City has one of the most reliable water main systems in the country, far outperforming the national average.  Large cities across the United States average 25 breaks for every 100 miles of water main per year, while the industry has set a best practices goal of 15 breaks for every 100 miles of main. With approximately 6,800 miles of water mains, New York City now averages about five breaks for every 100 miles of water main.

All main breaks waste water, and breaks on large mains can cause property damage, so DEP continually strives to improve the performance of the distribution system. Operators make around-the-clock adjustments to water pressure in each of the five boroughs to minimize fluctuations that had previously led to nighttime breaks. During FY 2020, DEP staff expanded the testing of the tens of thousands of valves that are connected to water mains to ensure quick shutoffs in the event of a break. DEP has also widened the network of sensors that provide real-time data, allowing crews to make adjustments before a break occurs.  And each week on average, about a mile of old water mains are retired and replaced with new, more durable ones.

DEP operates the nation’s largest water and wastewater utility.  The water distribution system, which is fed from upstate reservoirs through aqueducts, tunnels and mains, reliably supplies more than 1 billion gallons per day to more than 9 million New Yorkers. The City’s 109,000 fire hydrants are also connected to the water system.   

DEP manages New York City’s water supply, providing approximately 1 billion gallons of high-quality drinking water each day to more than 9 million residents, including 8.3 million in New York City. The water is delivered from a watershed that extends more than 125 miles from the city, comprising 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes. Approximately 7,000 miles of water mains, tunnels and aqueducts bring water to homes and businesses throughout the five boroughs, and 7,500 miles of sewer lines and 96 pump stations take wastewater to 14 in-city treatment plants. DEP has a robust capital program, with a planned $20.1 billion in investments over the next 10 years that will create up to 3,000 construction-related jobs per year.

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