A glass is filled with Long Island tap water. (Sept....

A glass is filled with Long Island tap water. (Sept. 4, 2013) Credit: Tara Conry

A new commission tasked with making recommendations to protect Long Island groundwater held its first meeting Thursday, marking a new regional attempt to address the future of the water supply.

The Long Island Commission on Aquifer Protection, created last year by the Nassau and Suffolk legislatures, includes officials from both counties and representatives of the Long Island Water Conference, Nassau-Suffolk Water Commissioners' Association and Suffolk County Water Authority.

The Island's aquifer system is the sole source of drinking water for the counties, but it has been threatened by contaminants.

"For the first time we have these water providers in both counties at the table," said Jeffrey Szabo, chief executive of the Suffolk water authority and chairman of the nine-member commission. "That has never been done before."

The group is tasked with producing a State of the Aquifer report within a year. A groundwater resources management plan, with recommendations on needed protections and data on aquifer water quality and quantity, is due within three years of the initial report.

Subcommittees will also be created to examine the effects of climate change on groundwater and water suppliers.

"This group can hopefully start speaking with one voice, making recommendations for the state," Carrie Meek Gallagher, chief sustainability officer for the Suffolk authority, said at the hourlong meeting held in Oakdale.

"We've been able to get both counties to work together," said Suffolk Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport). "That's why I think this is so much more powerful."

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, praised the new commission.

"The number of influential people expressing concern over the decline in water quality is very encouraging," he said. "People for whom water should matter are caring about the decline in water quality, and that's very good."

Szabo said the next meeting will be held in Nassau County in June or July.

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