If you could only bring one survival tool into the wilderness, what would it be?
Whether you thought of a canteen or a solar-powered water purifier, you likely came up with a solution to a fundamental problem – access to water. We can survive up to a month without food, but not more than a week without water.
Back in the urban jungle, if toilets can’t flush, buildings will quickly become uninhabitable.
That’s why a bill passed minutes ago by the City Council is so important. Introduction 1094-A requires that within six years, every multi-family residential building in NYC that uses an electric pump for its water supply must install emergency drinking water fixtures. There must be one fixture per 100 building occupants and they must be located in a common area, supplied only by water pressure from the public water main (meaning no pumps or electricity are required). The City Council also passed three other bills that implement recommendations of the NYC Building Resiliency Task Force, which Urban Green convened and managed for the city:
- BRTF 5 – Remove Barriers to Sidewalk Flood Protection (Intro 1093-A)
- BRTF 17 – Remove Barriers to Backup & Natural Gas Generators (Intro 1101-A)
- BRTF 20 – Add Hookups for Temporary Generators & Boilers (Intro 1092-A)
You can see the latest status on the Task Force recommendations and read summaries of new laws on our tracker.
Many New Yorkers lived through the reality of downed water pumps in the aftermath of Sandy, whether it was the absence of drinking water or toilets that couldn’t be flushed. That’s why Supply Drinking Water Without Power was one of the central recommendations of the Task Force.
New York is blessed with a gravity-fed distribution system that brings water from reservoirs in Upstate New York down to the city, and up to the fourth or fifthfloors of buildings just from pressure in the water mains. But the electric water pumps needed to send water higher can’t run without power, and during blackouts, some pumps can even block water from being available on lower floors.
The Task Force was very reluctant to recommend retroactive requirements for existing buildings. We made an exception for this proposal because of how much is at stake. With a working water supply, people can stay in their buildings much more safely. The proposal attempts to mitigate costs by allowing a six-year lead time for installation and by permitting faucets to be divided with splitters.
Within the next two decades, it’s near certain there will be another big power failure. If that happens, New Yorkers will turn en masse to these emergency water stations. When water starts flowing from some near-forgotten corner of the building, those of us who lived here during Superstorm Sandy will remember what we learned and how we adapted in its aftermath.