On April 5, David Letterman joked that the drought threatening the Northeast is so severe that New Yorkers can't even get a moist towelette at Kentucky Fried Chicken. While the water shortage hasn't yet impacted the city's population to quite that extent, co-op and condo residents are being called upon to conserve water in preparation for a summer that will likely be characterized by a sustained drought.
Citing the critical lack of rainfall over New York City's three reservoir systems - the Croton, Catskill, and Delaware systems - which include 19 reservoirs and have a collective storage capacity of 588 billion gallons, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared a Stage 1 Drought Emergency on April 1. The announcement was the third step in the drought declaration process that began on December 26, 2001, when a Drought Watch was put into effect. A watch is declared when there is less than a 50 percent chance that the Catskill and Delaware water supply systems - the two largest - would reach full capacity by June 1.
When the situation worsened, Bloomberg declared a Drought Warning on January 27, based on a less-than 33 percent chance that the two systems would refill by June. As of April 11, the reservoirs were at 60.8 percent capacity. To put the situation into perspective, the normal level is 96.8 percent.
A Stage 1 emergency involves the implementation of increasingly stringent measures to reduce water consumption should the drought continue. As of April 1, the city' s residents were prohibited from washing vehicles and sidewalks; watering of lawns is restricted from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for even-numbered addresses on even days and for odd-numbered addresses on odd days; golf courses may water only tees and greens; and ornamental fountains must be turned off. During all stages of a drought emergency, SAVE WATER signs must be posted in all buildings except residential properties under five units.
Property managers are doing their best to take the DEP's water-saving parameters to heart. According to Daniel Wollman, chief operating officer at the Gumley-Haft Real Estate management firm in Manhattan, "We have advised all of our residents to save water in accordance with what the city of New York has asked us to do. Some buildings put in water restrictors in showers [but it's not something we require]: My firm manages predominately co-ops and condominiums so really"¦ that would have to be something that a board promulgated among its residents. Some buildings - typically rental buildings - have gone to those types of things [low-flow shower heads and low consumption toilets]. In the co-op and condos that I generally manage, we've stopped washing the sidewalks as frequently."