ITHACA, NY – When the City’s of Ithaca’s water supplies were plagued by discolored, sometimes foul-smelling water earlier in the summer, some were calling on the city to provide bottled water to those affected.

While that was beyond what the city was willing to provide, they are offering at least a small reimbursement for some of those affected.

One of the common solutions to dealing with the discolored water was simply to run the water until the discolored elements flowed out. While it wasn’t an optimal solution — not great for conservation or for people’s water bills — it worked if you really need a glass of water.

The city is now offering reimbursements for those who who saw their water build go up due to overuse from flushing out their systems.

“Anybody who incurred a bill that was higher than their average bill for the June-July-August quarter, will be credited on the overage, based on the average bills for that quarter over the past five years,” said Assistant Superintendent of Public Works Erik Whitney.

Anyone who wants to claim the credit can call the Water and Sewer Department at (607)272-1717 and ask for the Senior Meter Tech, who can pull up the records and see how much, if any, they’re eligible to be credited for.

Whitney estimates that around one quarter of the city’s customers were exposed to the brown water, and about half of those were exposed to it multiple times, such that all the flushing would bump up their water bill.

Most people will have used no more than one or two extra units (100 cubic feet) of water. Whitney says they can expect to save about $11 per extra unit used.

Drought update

So what about all the rain?

“They brought our flows up very nicely, I haven’t seen the creek flowing that nicely since this time last year,” Whitney said.

In the long term, there’s still a ways to go to ensure that the watershed is able to fully replenish itself. The rains in the last week or two brought about three to four inches, but overall we were down about nine to ten inches from the average.

Forecasts show another proper rainstorm hitting tomorrow, with a good chance for rain over the weekend, late next week, and most of the week after that.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.