Tim McKell, a control center operator, monitors water pressure and...

Tim McKell, a control center operator, monitors water pressure and levels at the Suffolk County Water Authority in Bay Shore (July 23, 2010) Credit: Sally Morrow

The future of our water supply on Long Island must be regional -- not a collection of nonsensically tiny water districts whose reason for being is as much patronage as water. And that issue has now been joined, thanks to an action by the Village of Farmingdale.

Simply put, Farmingdale is trying to put more life into its downtown. The village trustees took a big step in that direction last week, when they approved a mixed-use development at the Long Island Rail Road station. Together with a new hotel at the station, that project will add customers and buzz to the village's downtown.

At the same meeting, the trustees acted on another crucial need: water. Right now, Farmingdale runs its own water supply. With downtown revitalization, it will need more water, but its wells are at capacity. It also has to cope with toxic plumes underground. A consultant weighed two proposals to provide the village's future water service, from the Bethpage Water District and the Suffolk County Water Authority. The consultant said the authority proposal would save the village and its roughly 2,200 water customers more money, depending on the capital costs of upgrading the system.

So the trustees voted to ask the State Legislature to change the authority's enabling statute, to let it cross the border into Nassau County, if that's the decision the village finally makes. It would not give the authority power to act anywhere else in Nassau but Farmingdale. Albany should grant this request.

But Albany being Albany, the legislation faces obstacles. One is the argument that Suffolk taxpayers have paid a lot to keep their water pure -- why should Nassau profit? But the authority would not necessarily pump Suffolk water into Farmingdale at the start, and once it did, the authority board should make reasonable accommodations to protect Suffolk customers. In any case, regionalism should trump petty score-keeping.

The other obstacle is likely to be the desire of small-district officials to keep their jobs. But these tiny districts aren't even affected by this possible deal. Lawmakers must look to regional good, not parochial patronage, and allow Farmingdale to shape its own future.