Co-Op City touts itself as the “largest residential development in the United States.” Located in The Bronx (New York), Co-Op City includes 15,372 residential units spread out over 35 high-rise buildings and seven clusters of townhouses on 320 acres. Complete in 1973, Co-Op City is also home to eight parking garages, three shopping centers, a 25-acre educational park (including six schools ranging from grammar to high school), a power plant, a firehouse, and 40 professional offices—all of which sits on only 20% of the city’s overall acreage, leaving many wide open green spaces.
One can imagine that those 15,000 residential units—along with those professional offices, schools, and firehouses—put a strain on local water resource management. In fact, the city spends about $14 per year on water and sewer, a number that is expected to exceed $70 million over the next five years. As such, it’s not surprising that Co-Op City recently announced it had signed a contract with Green Energy Management Services Holdings (GRMS) for the implementation of a five-year water efficiency installation. The hope is that restructuring their current infrastructure will allow the city to reduce demand and avoid losses do to non-revenue water via leaks and inefficient conveyance systems.
Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, GA, water efficiency has become a way of life. This is due in part the continuing dispute between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida over access to water in Lake Lanier. In 2009, US District Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that it was illegal for the Army Corps of Engineers to continue to draw water form the lake for Atlanta’s three million residents. Magnuson also set a July 2012 deadline for the states to resolve the dispute, lest they find themselves restricted to the water allocations based on mid-1970s water use.
And while the city awaits the outcome of Georgia appeal of that district court decision, Atlanta is actually experiencing a reduction in water use. In fact, although the population in North Georgia grew 28% between 2000 and 2009, water use has decreased from 602 million gallons a day in 2006 to 512 million gallons a day in 2009. This success is due to a number of factors, including an increase in rain for the year, concerted conservation efforts and severe water restrictions throughout the city. Despite the city’s current holding pattern, continued population growth is still a concern. In order to address these risks, the city has authorized the construction of reservoirs, created a Water Supply Task Force and adopted a myriad of conservation measures, including rebates on low-flow fixtures and appliances.
So what do you think? Are cities in the best position to assess their water resource needs and develop successful strategies to combat supply shortages and demand increases? Are national policies and programs ineffectual when it comes to addressing distinctive regional needs? And is your city—or state—doing enough to prepare for the future?