In water-quality protection, every drop counts

To the last drop: New York American Water is throwing some coin into the water-quality fountain.

New York State officials aren’t the only ones with water quality on their mind.

Even as Gov. Andrew Cuomo throws billions toward clean-water initiatives and related infrastructure improvements, a privately owned water utility servicing roughly 325,000 Nassau County customers is championing the cause on a slightly smaller scale, offering $10,000 in grants for “innovative, community-based environmental projects” targeting local watersheds and groundwater supplies.

The competitive awards come through the Environmental Grant Program, an annual effort of New Jersey-based American Water Works Co. Merrick subsidiary New York American Water is now accepting applications for “green project funding,” with pitches to be judged by company employees based on project design, community collaboration and projected environmental impact, among other criteria.

The goal is to improve, restore and protect local freshwater sources throughout American Water’s service areas – part of the company’s commitment to regional testing and consumer education, according to Michael Nofi, who manages the multistate utility’s water quality and environmental compliance programs.

That includes support of “community source protection programs,” Nofi noted.

Michael Nofi: Communities lead the way.

“The company believes everyone is an environmental steward in protecting the nation’s water supplies,” he said. “This program is one way to help communities play an active role.”

Applications must include “specific, measurable goals,” according to a company statement, and project managers must summarize the project’s ultimate impact in a final written report. Collaboration is a must – a “formal or informal partnership” between at least two organizations is required – and work must be completed between May 1 and Nov. 30 of this year.

Programs must be “new or innovative,” according to American Water, and must address a community watershed within the company’s service area. Grant monies cannot be used to pay salaries or other project-related compensation, and applicants must provide “evidence of sustainability” – proof the project will continue to be effective after grant monies are utilized.

More information on the application process is available on the NYAM website. American Water plans to notify grant recipients in April.

The parent company – self-billed as “the largest and most geographically diverse publicly traded U.S. water and wastewater utility company” – services an estimated 15 million people in 47 states and Canada through local subsidiaries like New York American Water. In March 2016, NYAM acquired the 93-customer Mill Neck Estates Water System in Mill Neck Village; terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Last year, American Water issued $153,350 in grants to water-quality projects in 10 states, the company said.