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Frequently Asked Questions
Who owns the water service leading to my house?
You do. Under Albany City Code, the property owner owns and is responsible for maintaining the water service from the City-owned water main to the point of entry into the property. However, as a courtesy, under our current policies, the Water Department will repair that portion of your water service from the City main to–but not including–the curb box, the valve used to control water flow into your building. The property owner is responsible for the remainder of the service line, from the curb box to the point of entry into the building.
Will the City repair the portion of the water service I am responsible for?
Sometimes. Depending upon time and available resources–and solely at the discretion of the Department–the Department may agree to make repairs, once a consent form has been properly executed between the property owner and the City. The property owner will be billed a flat rate depending on the size of the service.
Who repairs the sidewalks and driveways damaged during a water main break?
We do. Our restoration crew will repair or replace sidewalks, driveways or streets damaged during a Water Department excavation. We will use only standard City of Albany restoration materials, however, which includes concrete, asphalt and red brick. Any special concrete, slate retaining walls, steps, custom landscaping or other structures within the City’s right-of-way or easement will be the responsibility of the property owner.
My lawn was damaged during a water main break. Will you replace it?
Yes, we will replace it–once. Our policy is that all lawn areas damaged during our excavations will be restored using standard City of Albany topsoil and seed. We cannot install sod or any other special landscape materials. It is important to remember that the property owner is responsible to water and maintain the lawn once the restoration is complete. The Water Department cannot return to replant the lawn if it has not been properly watered and maintained.
My water bill is too high. What should I do?
The first thing to do is to call the Water Department at 434-5300. We will check your computerized service history to see if there has been a change in your usage. We also will be happy to send an inspector to your home to check for leaks or other problems that might be causing a high water bill. This is a free service. Although we cannot fix an internal plumbing problem, we can often identify the problem and advise you on what should be done.
I have heard Albany water was judged the best in the State. Is that true?
Yes, it is. In October 2007, Mayor Gerald D. Jennings announced that the City of Albany won first prize for the best tasting drinking water in New York State during a competition at the New York State Fair.
“This is a tremendous honor for our City and our Water Department,” Mayor Jennings said, “and we are enormously proud of the men and women in the Water Department who work everyday to ensure that our residents receive pure and wholesome water. Albany residents already know that we have the best water in New York State–now the rest of the State knows too.”
Albany water beat out both ground and surface water supplies from around the State during the competition earlier today at the State Fair, earning the award for the Best Tasting Drinking Water in New York State.
Earlier this summer, Albany water won first prize in June as the best tasting water in Albany County, and went on to take top honors as the best tasting water during a regional competition in August. Albany then went on to the State Fair for the final leg of the competition.
“Thanks to the strong support of Mayor Jennings, we have been able to modernize and upgrade our water system to deliver a high quality product for our residents,” Water Commissioner Robert F. Cross said. “The professionalism and dedication of our staff is unmatched, and I applaud all of our hardworking Water Department employees who have helped to make this award possible.”
What is the oldest water main in the City?
Fifty-five miles of Albany’s 376 miles of water mains were installed in the mid-19th Century. However, some of the mains may even be older, with some cast iron mains possibly installed in 1813. If true, Albany would have the oldest functioning cast iron pipe in the western hemisphere. Incidentally, all of the water mains in the City originally were hollowed-out tree trunks, many installed in the 1700's. Although unlikely, there is a very remote outside chance that somewhere beneath some of the oldest parts of our City, a functioning wooden water main remains.
Why are there more water main breaks in the cold weather?
There is a direct correlation between the number of breaks and the amount of snow cover. It seems that a good layer of snow cover actually helps to insulate underground water pipes and reduces damaging frost penetration into the soil. So, snow is not only good for the ski business, it’s good for the water business as well.
I hear that the Albany Water Department is checking every water main in the City. Is this true?
Yes, it is. Most old cities–such as Albany–have hidden leaks in their aging underground pipes. Some municipalities hire firms, at a great expense, to check for leaks. Albany had a better idea. Using high-tech computerized leak detection equipment, purchased as part of Mayor Jennings’ efforts to modernize the Water Department, we are surveying every water main in the City to identify hidden leaks. We have found more than 90 hidden underground leaks, all of which have been repaired before they caused any serious problems. All 376 miles of mains have been checked and we now have begun a second round of surveys throughout every neighborhood in the City. The National League of Cities has selected the Department of Water and Water Supply's leak detection program for inclusion in the League's "Programs for Cities" database. The League praised Albany's leak detection program as a "proven solution" for municipalities wishing to locate and fix hidden underground water leaks.
I understand Albany water is the lowest priced water in the Capital District. Is that correct?
Yes, it is correct. The average cost of water in Albany is lower than in any other Capital District community. And, we are striving to continue that record, while still providing the best tasting and purest water for our customers.
Why must we pay sewer charges as well as water charges?
Sewer charges have been included on Albany water bills for the last two decades. We must charge for sewer use because all of the waste is treated by Albany County at its wastewater treatment plants. The county bills us for treating the waste, and we must recover this cost from property owners. Back in the 1970's, it was determined that the fairest way to assess sewer charges was to base them on the amount of water used by our customers since most of our customers generate waste in their daily lives, and that waste ends up in our sewer system. Because we have a combined storm and sanitary sewer system, wastewater–whether it is from a household toilet or lawn sprinkler–will end up in the sewer system. The more effluent that goes through the county sewage treatment plants, the more the City is charged for processing that effluent.
What effect did the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on America have on the Albany Water Department?
The effect was immediate and far-reaching. After the attack, all Water Department facilities were locked down. The security guard force more than tripled, with round the clock coverage instituted at all installations. Video surveillance cameras, motion detectors and other high-tech security measures were put in place to ensure that your water supply is safe and secure. The Water Department works closely with the Albany Police Department, New York State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation as well.
Can the public visit any of the Water Department facilities or reservoirs?
Unfortunately, we cannot allow access to any reservoir or other Water Department facility by unauthorized individuals at any time.
Many Capital District communities have water restrictions. How about Albany?
The one and only time that Albany issued water restrictions for residents was during the great Northeast drought of 1965-66, when the reservoir had dropped to 30 percent of capacity. Never before, or since, have restrictions been required in the City of Albany. Although we have an abundant supply of pure and wholesome drinking water, we do not have a license to waste. We must all practice water conservation in order to preserve our precious resource. Call the Water Department for ways you can conserve water and also lower your water bill.
Where does Six Mile Water Works get its name?
Rensselaer Lake, also known as Six Mile Water Works, is located on Fuller Road, six miles from downtown Albany. That’s as close as we can come to learning the source of its name. Six Mile Water Works is under the jurisdiction of the Water Department and is being studied as a potential emergency water supply for the City. Six Mile Water Works was built by the City of Albany in 1851 for use as the City’s first public water supply reservoir. A dam was built where three streams united, covering 40 acres of Pine Barrens. The 200 million gallon reservoir supplied the City with water from 1851 until the mid-1920s. Water was conveyed via a five-foot underground brick conduit to the City’s Bleecker Reservoir, located where Bleecker Stadium now stands. Remnants of the egg-shaped, four-mile long conduit remain intact today in various sections along its path. So, the next time you are driving along Manning Blvd. between Washington Avenue and Central Avenue, give a thought to the large conduit six feet below which once provided this City with drinking water.