Report: Plenty of Water in Beacon

Study may signal end to building moratorium

By Jeff Simms

A report released this week indicates that Beacon’s water supply is sufficient to sustain the city’s projected population through 2035, and likely gives the City Council the green light to let a six-month building moratorium expire later this month.

The council adopted the moratorium in September, citing concerns over whether the water supply could support the city’s growing population. But on Wednesday (March 14), consultants from an environmental engineering firm appeared to ease their worries.

“All of your projections are less than your safe yield from your supply,” said Michael Shortell, an engineer with Leggette, Brashears & Graham, who presented projections for the next 17 years. “We do not recommend any corrective action needed to meet the current and future water demand.”

Built in 1922, the Mount Beacon Reservoir holds about 125 million gallons of water. (NYNJTC)

The report, compiled during the moratorium, concluded that Beacon’s water — which comes from bedrock wells, three reservoirs and more than a million gallons per day that the city purchases from Fishkill — is capable of producing a safe yield of 4.09 million gallons per day, even accounting for drought conditions, through 2035.

Shortell compared that figure to projections by John Clarke, a planning consultant for the city, that show Beacon’s population peaking at 18,753 in a maximum “build-out” scenario. If the city reaches that population, Leggette projected its peak daily water need at 3.83 million gallons per day, with an average of 3.07, still within the system’s anticipated safe yield.

The city currently uses 2.45 million gallons per day, with a peak of 3.05. The U.S. Census Bureau said in 2016 that Beacon had about 13,500 residents, excluding the Fishkill Correctional Facility.

The long-term scenario assumes that land now vacant will be developed, that vacant structures will be restored and that some buildings will be redeveloped to have more occupants. In all, it projects about 2,600 (this includes projects currently in the city’s pipeline) new housing units being built and an increase in population of 5,255 people. It also projects almost 250,000 square feet of new commercial space.

However, Clarke told the council he would be “shocked if you got that far by 2035.”

The report also recommended that the city add backup water sources, including Fishkill Creek and a third well that could be drilled. In addition, the study identified more than 217,000 gallons of water lost to leaks each day, although much of that is being corrected.

“I feel comfortable that we have enough water to go forward with our comprehensive plan,” Beacon Mayor Randy Casale said Thursday.

The next step for the City Council is to approve the water study as an addendum to the city’s comprehensive plan, which was updated last year. It will likely discuss the study at a workshop before voting.

Thomas Cusack, a Leggette senior vice president, recommended that the water report be updated on the same schedule as the comprehensive plan, or roughly every 10 years.

13 thoughts on “Report: Plenty of Water in Beacon

  1. When we increase the amount of water we get from Fishkill, it will account for about 37 percent of our total supply. What happens if our new contract ends and they decide they want to keep the water for themselves? Or, what happens if they make bad land use decisions and screw up the supply?

    You only have to look across the river to see what can happen when a city’s supply is outside of their jurisdiction. Is there something I’m missing? Some extra layer of protection that makes us feel OK with relying on the Village of Fishkill?

    • I have two concerns: (1) the consultant used “safe yield” — OMG, that term (and the associated technical assessment) was replaced by “sustainable yield” (and it’s different, less-simplistic, and more realistic technical assessment) sometime in the mid-1990s; and, (2) the difference between the “safe yield” and the projected peak demand in 2035 is way too close. I don’t see an acceptable factor of safety mentioned here. This said, can either of you send me a copy of the technical report provided by the consultant. I’d like to review the assessment method, and confirm a factor of safety is implicitly covered in there. Additionally, I’ll likely send it to my colleagues at Oregon State University, as well as the state of Oregon — both are well-practiced and well-known hydrogeologists, just to have a quick look.

    • I don’t have a copy of the report. Only watched the recording of the presentation. If you get one let me know. I’m curious if climate change impacts are in there. And more detail about the Fishkill Creek as a backup. Seems dubious at best.

    • The water report is online. Re: climate change, Fishkill Creek or other questions, stay tuned. I’m sure this won’t be the last time we write about the water question.

    • We need to be asking many questions on how our watershed is or is not being protected? Access by many to a source without a patrol system. Dumping who knows when, what or how much? Uses that cause erosion: four-wheeling, dirt bikes, Jeeps all along the watershed… Scary and needs to be addressed.

  2. Contrary to what the public heard during the City of Beacon Water Supply Plan presentation given by Leggette, Brashears and Graham the average person uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day as per the government studies listed on the USGS website. This presentation was a bit misleading when they stated 55 gallons per person with usage expected to drop if ‘low flow fixtures’ are installed but in reality Beacon will need 6 million gallons a day to meet future requirements. According to the city’s own website the water departments current maximum is 4 million gallons a day and in 2016 they were averaging usage of 3.9 million gallons a day. The water usage at the sewage treatment plant, well – that’s another story!

  3. The moratorium needs to be extended for another year. Beacon can’t sustain the current developments that are being built. Apartments across from post office, two developments near the DMV will have adverse effects on traffic, quality of life, affordable housing. And there are other approved projects that I’ve not mentioned. Beacon will not realize when enough is enough until it’s too late.

  4. If we ever have to rely on Fishkill Creek as a back up, God help us! That creek dries up to a mere trickle by mid-summer.

    • People should be advised that Fishkill Creek is the drainage for a very large watershed, perhaps nearly half the size of Dutchess County, and this watershed contains a great many septic systems which appear prone to failure. The worst times apparently are after heavy rains, and flooding, after a dry period in the summer. The Hudson River is similarly affected and contaminated. The creek was apparently at one time the source of much of Beacon’s water supply (bare remnants of the system are yet visible near the Falls). Without expensive treatment, I would not go near it, let alone drink it.

  5. I have continued to question Beacon’s inadequate water supply, asking the same question: Why over the past few years have we been told Beacon is in a drought and conserve water, while at the same time we are being told there is no problem to add more residents, there is plenty of water for them.

    That may be fine, but I sure hope that in four or five years we will not hear the city say we now have a problem and we need to raise the water /sewer rates to add new water supplies. It happened in the early 1990s. Let new residents pay for any additions. We already paid for the additions in the ’90s.