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January 10, 2011

NY Water Law Blog Launched

I have started this website and blog as a resource for citizens and lawyers studying water law issues in New York. Greater understanding of New York's laws governing water usage and protection from water contamination is needed as we evaluate the water impacts that may result from increased gas drilling activities in New York and adjacent states.

The scope and adequacy of New York's existing water laws are under debate. Proposed regulatory changes currently under consideration by the NYS Department of Enviornmental Conservation (DEC) would permit gas well drilling companies to use the techniques of horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing to increase gas production. See Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program, Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling And High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs. If these techniques are permitted, billions of gallons of the state's fresh water will be used by gas drilling companies for hydraulic fracturing (hydro-fracking) of gas wells at a time when fresh water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity in the United States and the world.

Gas drilling is certainly not the only source of demand for New York's water. According to the DEC website, more than 15 billion gallons of water are withdrawn each day from the lakes, rivers, streams, estuaries and groundwaters of New York for uses that include domestic consumption, industrial use, irrigation and livestock watering, mining and thermoelectric power generation. Thermoelectric power is by far the most significant of all water use categories in the state, accounting for nearly 80% of total water withdrawn. Public water supply accounts for nearly 17%. About two-thirds of the total water withdrawn is fresh water. The other third is taken from saline waters and is used primarily for thermoelectric power generation. Surface water withdrawals account for nearly 94% of all freshwater withdrawals in New York State, the remaining 6% of withdrawals are taken from groundwater sources. See the DEC webpage on Water Use in New York.

In the 2010 legislative session, Governor Patterson offered Governor's Program Bill #51 to require large water users to obtain permits from the DEC. The bill was introduced in the the New York senate as S8280 and passed in 2010. The companion bill, A11436B, in the assembly did not come to the floor for a vote. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in 2011.

Posted by Rachel Treichler at 01/10/11 09:52 AM



Copyright 2013, Rachel Treichler



About NY Water Law

New York Water Law covers legal developments relating to water in New York and in jurisdictions that may be influential in New York. The author, Rachel Treichler, practices law in the Finger Lakes region.
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