Developing an Effective Water Supply Shortage Management Plan


  • Grace Johns Ph.D., Jack Kiefer, Ph.D. - Hazen and Sawyer
  • Vlada Kenniff - Bureau of Environmental Planning & Analysis, NYC Environmental Protection

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) provides 1.2 billion gallons of water to about 9 million people in the five boroughs of New York City and to many upstate communities. DEP is currently revising its Water Supply Shortage Management Plan and Rules to incorporate updated information regarding water uses and short term reduction methods, and expanding the Plan and Rules to cover scheduled or unscheduled infrastructure repairs. In addition to the prospects for future drought-induced water shortages, in 2013 DEP will begin construction of a bypass tunnel and by 2020 begin repairs on the portion of the Delaware Aqueduct that connects the Rondout Reservoir to the West Branch Reservoir. Currently leaks in this section release between 15 and 35 million gallons of water a day. Through their Water for the Future program, DEP is ensuring that sufficient water will be available during construction activities and droughts by improving the water supply infrastructure and by developing a plan and rules that will effectively reduce water use in the short term as needed.

This presentation will describe the proposed revised water supply management plan and the estimated water savings during the summer months and the winter months associated with each action and emergency stage, including the methods used to estimate water savings. Because DEP’s customers consume most of their water indoors, the development of effective mandatory and voluntary water use restrictions was challenging. The goal of the plan and rules update is to implement water shortage rules that provide the greatest water savings for the least amount of customer inconvenience.

A five-pronged approach will be described and justified as an effective way to reach customers and encourage them to reduce water use during water shortage emergencies. This approach includes:

1. Implement Public Communication and Education Program that informs customers of the water supply situation and teaches them how to use less water;
2. Implement mandatory water use restrictions by Emergency Stage – I, II, III and IV;
3. Implement previously established emergency rate structure for each Stage;
4. Provide water customers with easy and timely access to their water usage data; and,
5. Establish City agency responsibilities to lead the water use reduction efforts.

The estimated water savings includes those associated with mandatory water use restrictions and additional voluntary indoor water use reductions. Residential and non-residential customers are addressed separately. The presentation will include the use of DEP’s automated meter reading data to estimate the effectiveness of irrigation water use restrictions. The presentation will demonstrate a holistic approach to addressing emergency water supply situations.

For more information, please contact the author at

Hear about new publications with our email newsletter

We will never share your details with anyone else.


Newsletter Newsletter

Horizons Fall 2017 (pdf)

Horizons showcases significant water, wastewater, reuse, and stormwater projects and innovations that help our clients to achieve their goals, and can help you achieve yours. Articles are written by top engineers and process group leaders, demonstrating and explaining the beneficial application of a variety of technologies and tools.

View previous issues »