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Fire hydrant water also links a complex bureaucracy of city agencies working to serve nine million customers.

There are 118,000 hydrants in NYC, supported by 6,500 miles of water mains.4 The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) manages the city’s water system — monitoring reservoir levels, managing water treatment, maintaining the system’s equipment (including hydrants), and educating the public about its work. The DEP employs more than 6,000 people and is funded entirely by water rates set by the city’s Water Authority. Rates rose 11.5% in 2007; and will rise again by 14.5% in 2008.5

Usually the DEP dispatches a team of workers to close an open hydrant, though in drought emergencies, firefighters and police may also close hydrants. The New York City Police, particularly during drought emergencies, may ticket those who illegally open hydrants (up to $1,000 fines/30 days in jail).

Legal use of a hydrant is permitted with the use of a spray cap — a perforated cap that significantly reduces water flow from the hydrant. The nearly 12,000 New York City firefighters distribute spray caps at no charge.

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