Feel-Good Measures Won’t Stem the Tide

A region that has grown too populous for its limited landmass and existing infrastructure

Two recent conservation initiatives from the South Fork’s larger utilities caught our eye and support a sense that the area has reached some sort of maximum. PSEG Long Island and the Town of East Hampton have announced energy awareness days next week with a goal of dialing back on power consumption. At the same time, the Suffolk County Water Authority is pushing a voluntary odd-even day irrigation schedule to cut demand. Meanwhile, cellular companies are scrambling to erect new antennas, and ambulance companies across the region have added paid paramedics to help the volunteers cope with emergencies. 

But there is more: Water quality degradation is on the rise and up to a fifth of future community preservation fund income could be diverted to build sewage treatment plants and pay for remediation. In addition, traffic congestion has turned ordinarily brief trips into unwanted adventures. It all adds up to a region that has grown too populous for its limited landmass and existing infrastructure. 

Asking residents and business owners to conserve water or reduce their use of electricity might make officials think they are doing some good, but it will hardly make a difference. To save eastern Long Island from the all-but-inevitable will take a whole lot more than photo-ops; it will take a determined effort to reduce seasonal population surges and new residential development as well as to curtail commercial sprawl. So far, we see no evidence anyone is taking on the harder, fundamental questions. 

Yes, many of us may happily install low-flow showerheads — but what is government going to do?