Groundbreaking Report Concludes: Desalination Unnecessary

Posted by on Aug 4, 2015 | 0 comments


For years, the Rockland Water Coalition has battled a proposal by Suez/United Water to construct a desalination plant for Rockland. Rockland residents overwhelming opposed the project, which would have drawn drinking water from the Hudson River 3.5 miles downstream from Indian Point, a leaking nuclear power plant. The desalination plant would have driven up water rates steeply. More than 30 local, regional and national groups joined together to fight against the project, which would have been sited in irreplaceable habitat, as well as resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions at a time when steep reductions in energy use are urgently needed.

Amy Vickers

Amy Vickers

Now a groundbreaking report by an independent expert confirms what environmentalists have been saying for years. In a report for the Rockland Water Task Force, nationally renowned water expert Amy Vickers has found that Rockland County can save up to 7 million gallons of drinking water per day from conservation measures and fixing system leaks. Her stunning report challenges Suez/United Water New York’s claim that an environmentally destructive, expensive desalination plant is needed.

Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay summed up the conclusions of the report: ““This analysis of how Rockland County’s water supply is being managed is simply stunning, Not only does [this report] prove that desalination is unnecessary and inappropriate, it shows just how bad the situation in Rockland really is. This is a wakeup call for public officials at every level – they need to work together to bring water supply management in Rockland County under control, before it gets any further out of hand.”

Reviewing company reports, Ms. Vickers found high system losses from leaking pipes, which had been significantly underestimated by the company. She found that United Water was fixing pipes at such a “snail’s pace” that if the company continues maintenance at the rate it did last year, it would take 704 years to replace or repair all its mains!

Her report also showed that the data supplied is incomplete and inconsistent, making it nearly impossible to identify true volumes of water supplied and consumed.

The good news is that Vickers’ findings show that there is significant untapped potential both in repair of leaks and in conservation. That means that the need for any new water supply in the foreseeable future is doubtful. In addition to far more proactive maintenance, she recommends vigorous conservation measures by consumers, starting with the biggest water users.

Instead of embracing Vickers’ groundbreaking report as a road map for improvement of its operations and as an opportunity to add to Rockland’s water supply, the company chose to attack the work of this nationally renowned expert, who has consulted with dozens of municipalities and water companies to improve their water management systems.

Suez/UW has also gone back on the offensive in asking the NYS Public Service Commission for a final decision on desalination. Last November, the PSC put the desal plans on hold and ordered the company to explore other smaller supply sources, such as new wells.

The Rockland Water Coalition has also opposed the company’s outrageous request for ratepayers to reimburse Suez/United Water $49 million for its failed desal project. The recent Vickers report also makes clear that $49 million was spent by the company on a project that was never needed.

Vickers was commissioned by the Rockland Water Task Force to explore conservation and efficiency options as a major first step in a Conservation Plan sustainable water policy for the county. Her work was partially funded by the Rockland Water Coalition in order to keep the study independent of the water company. Without this independence, Suez/UW could have suppressed her findings.


Here are two quick, easy ways to make your donation to support this work on your behalf and to defeat the desalination proposal: You can donate online at

Or you can write a check today payable to “Sierra Club Foundation,” write “Stop desalination” on the memo line, and send it to Sierra Club Foundation, Box 792, Pearl River, NY 10965.

Thank you for your partnership throughout this long fight!

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