Suffolk County Water Quality Management District

Suffolk County, New York, United States

The 1.5 million people of Suffolk County, New York rely on extensive local groundwater supplies for their drinking water and revel in 980 miles of coastline that highlight their famed summers. While inexpensive local fresh water supplies may be out of sight and out of mind, the waters of Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean are fundamental to community identity both in the densely populated, year-round, middle class communities of the western interior and the lavish seasonal estates on the East End. Unfortunately, over time a lack of access to funding for public sewers and a lack of investment in on-site wastewater treatment systems have begun to threaten these local water resources. In addition, there has been a disconnection between the regional water and wastewater suppliers, predominately the Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA), and the regional wastewater providers, notably the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

To help address these problems, Suffolk County retained Raftelis to conduct a Countywide Water Quality Management District Feasibility Study. The study was commissioned to help the County move beyond the planning phase of efforts to improve water quality, and into a comprehensive and well supported implementation phase that would include the development of a recurring revenue stream, governance structure(s), spatial tools, and legal pathways to success. The goal was to unify efforts, potentially unite various water and wastewater entities, and to provide more cohesive services to address water quality.

Raftelis is leading a team of local engineering, public relations, and legal partners to develop a community-supported implementation plan. The customized approach includes significant stakeholder engagement across several County departments, SCWA, as well as local environmental non-profits, the business community, and beyond.

Following extensive data gathering and analysis, coupled with monthly workshops, Raftelis is helping the County design and select a tailored revenue model and governance structure, each with a clear legal and legislative path to approval. Revenue requirements for rate calculations include projections of I/A OWTS grant funds, program management staffing and costs, and additional revenue for sewer capital projects. Deliverables in development include spatial tools to be used by the County for ongoing program management, identification of expanded and new functions and staff, a financial planning and rate model with 30 years of capital and operating revenue requirements and revenue projections, and an implementation plan covering recommended governance and legal considerations. Raftelis is also working with the County to ensure the rate design considers affordability for vulnerable populations, which is of particular importance given the relatively high cost of living in the region.