The County Executive’s Corner: Sixty Years Is Long Enough

Ed DayBy Rockland County Executive Ed Day

As both sides continue to lobby and firm up positions on United Water New York’s proposed rate hike and the company’s plan to build a desalination plant in West Haverstraw, our County lawyers have quietly targeted a separate issue involving our local water supply. Separate, but just as important for everyone who pays United Water to use the tap.

The County Attorney’s Office last week filed extensive legal papers calling on the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to correct an unfair water agreement which has been on the books for 60 years.

Here’s the background: The PSC is currently reviewing a 20-year extension to the Lake DeForest Reservoir Cost Allocation Agreement, which was originally drafted in 1954 to define how the cost of operating the reservoir would be shared between the Spring Valley Water Company (now United Water New York, UWNY) and their parent company, the Hackensack Water Company (now United Water New Jersey, UWNJ).

The existing cost shares are based on each company’s minimum expected annual average share of water from Lake DeForest, 7.75 million gallons per day (mgd) for UWNJ and 10 mgd for UWNY. The Village of Nyack uses the remaining 2 mgd of the Lake DeForest safe yield each year.

Historically, UWNY has only used its 10 mgd allocation of the safe yield and Nyack has used its 2 mgd. In most years, however, the actual amount of water available from Lake DeForest is much greater. In fact, the long-term average flow of water from the reservoir downstream into the UWNJ system has been roughly 27 mgd.

Under the existing terms, United Water New Jersey customers pay for the use of only 7.75 million gallons of water per day from Lake DeForest, regardless how much is used. In contrast, the cost to UWNY customers rises if more than an average 10 mgd from Lake DeForest is used, under all but high flow conditions when the lake is full.

Simply put, United Water New York ratepayers have been getting the short end of the stick for decades. It’s about time the PSC makes fundamental changes to this longstanding, inequitable Agreement for the environmental and economic benefit of the County. As a matter of fairness and balance, we believe this deal must not be approved until the PSC considers the County’s recommendations.