Safety & Environment
Water Conservation and Water Quality
New York City is fortunate to be located in a water-rich environment. The city’s water is supplied from three upstate reservoir systems (Delaware, Catskill, and Croton) that have a combined capacity of 550 billion gallons of water, according to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP). The New York City Panel on Climate Change’s 2019 report predicts that precipitation will increase in the coming years, including a higher rate of extreme precipitation events. Unlike many areas of the United States today, water management in our region is not about scarcity. Regardless, we strive to reduce our water consumption, and water conservation efforts will continue to be factored into our business planning.
The vast majority of Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc.’s (CECONY) water footprint is converted into steam, which is an integral source of clean, efficient energy. Steam is distributed to our customers for a variety of uses, such as heat, hot water, air conditioning, sterilization, and food processing. As one of NYCDEP’s largest water customers, we are committed to our stakeholders and the environment to strive to minimize the amount of water used to produce steam. We aim to reduce our water footprint by improving the efficiency of our steam system and implementing water treatment system enhancements.
Our water usage has decreased by more than 20% over the past decade. This is due in part to a decrease in demand for steam and also due to several major technology upgrades that have reduced our water consumption. At the East River Generating Station, we recently installed ultrafiltration (UF) and reverse-osmosis (RO) filtration systems in two of our generating units. These additional filtration systems add two initial steps to the water filtration process. Before upgrading to include this pre-filtration system, a considerable amount of water was used to clean the original filtration system at least once daily. Now, our UF and RO filtration systems efficiently remove minerals and debris from the water early in the purification process, reducing demineralizer cleanings to two or three a month. This upgrade has enabled us to reduce our overall water consumption and use water more efficiently. We are now in the process of updating the pre-filtration process in two additional units at the station and are already seeing savings of approximately 1 million gallons of water each month. By the end of 2022, we aim to complete these upgrades.
Con Edison Steam Operations - DEP Municipal Water Use (billion gallons)
- Water Used to Produce Electricity
- Water Used to Produce Steam
- Steam Purchased by Customers
Note: This chart displays steam operations data only.
On average, more than 65% of Steam Operations’ water footprint is distributed to customers as steam energy purchased for their needs.
Water Quality and Effluent Management
At CECONY, we responsibly manage our effluent, which is primarily discharged from our steam plants into the Hudson River or East River. Every CECONY steam plant has a State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit that allows our facilities to discharge water into the river, assuming our effluent meets the designated criteria for each station. Each steam plant maintains pH and suspended solids monitoring so that effluent remains within the requirements of our permits.
Preventing Spills to Waterways
Utility operations entail the use of equipment that contains oil. These operations include the storage of petroleum fuels needed to maintain utility service during gas supply contingencies and the use of dielectric fluid (a type of mineral oil) to dissipate heat from operating equipment. CECONY has robust plans to quickly contain accidental oil spills before they reach waterways and impact the aquatic environment. The adequacy of these plans is regularly reviewed and, as needed, operational improvements are implemented to improve spill response capabilities. CECONY is in the midst of a multi-year, $65 million dollar initiative to upgrade spill containment structures that further reduce the risk of spills from oil-filled equipment. CECONY recently completed the installation of containment “moats” around 44 oil-containing large power transformers (LPTs) at its waterfront substations so that all waterfront LPTs are now enclosed by moats. CECONY is now working to complete the construction of moats around LPTs system-wide.