One of the most important reasons to protect land on Long Island is to protect our water, both drinking water and surface water like beaches, bays and ponds.
Long Islanders are fortunate to have their own drinking water source, underground aquifers created hundreds of thousands of years ago by the glaciers that moved through this region. Permeable surfaces, such as open land, are necessary for rain and snow to be absorbed and make their way downward to replenish the aquifer. Water is cleaned along the way as it passes through layers of silt, sand and gravel before it reaches its destination.
In an effort to protect Long Island’s aquifers, unique in New York State, nine Special Groundwater Protection Areas (SGPAs) were designated in the early 80’s. These areas, also known as the Deep Flow Recharge Areas, represent the headwaters of the system and are the most important areas to protect. Two SGPA’s are located in the Land Alliance’s designated area, North Hills and Oyster Bay, and their boundaries represent the heart of the Land Alliance’s priority conservation area.
Long Islanders are also very fortunate to enjoy 1,180 miles of shoreline. Our coastal areas provide us with beautiful scenic vistas and extraordinary recreational opportunities. They also support a vibrant fishing industry and attract tourists at a rate of more than five million per year generating millions of dollars of support for our local economy.
What we do at the surface affects the quality and quantity of the water that lies below. Rapid development and very heavy usage have accelerated the spread of contaminants into the deeper, purer layers of the aquifer. The most serious of those include nitrogen from septic tanks and sewage treatment plants and fertilizers. Excessive population driven water withdrawal has also created saltwater intrusion in certain coastal communities. Dense development has paved over natural recharge areas and increased storm water runoff that pollutes our beaches and bays.
Open lands provide a natural infrastructure integral to the health of our waters.