As much fun as uncapping a hydrant may be, the classic summer icon cannot continue in its current form. Spray caps are a great starting point, but the tradition must evolve. The question is: how to protect or even enhance the positive aspects of the practice — local intergenerational play that energizes the sidewalk — while stemming the negative consequences of water loss and diminished safety.
The factors driving the uncappings, heat and density, will continue to intensify over the coming decades; in tandem the drive to open the hydrants will also likely increase. Manhattan is expected to experience an 18.8% population growth in the next 20 years while the total population of New York City is projected to reach 9.1 million by the year 2030.29 Simultaneously, temperatures will be rising; summertime temperatures in New York are projected to increase by 2.7°–7.6° by the year 2050.30 Climate change projections also predict 30–62 "heat wave" days annually by the year 2050 (there were 14 in 1997).31
As climate change brings higher temperatures, it also creates less predictable weather patterns and uncertainty around the replenishment of New York’s water supply. Scientists predict that the combination of a smaller snow pack to provide runoff, little increase in summer rainfall amounts, and increased summer temperatures will produce more short–term (one to three month) droughts in the future.32
There will be more people, more heat, the same amount of land, and at best the same amount of water, though possibly less. With a less reliable cycle of reservoir replenishment and increased demand, the wasted water of an uncapped hydrant will have an exponentially larger impact. And yet the same elements that diminish the water supply will greatly increase the likelihood of uncapping in the hot city summers. A change of course in addressing uncappings and the communal activity that they encompass must be considered.