Office of General Services

New York State Office of General Services - Executive Order 18
Executive Order 18

Please select a question or scroll down to browse all frequently asked questions.

Bottled Water
Potable Water
Assessing the Adequacy of Tap Water Supplies in Agency Operated Buildings
Funding for Improvements

Answers About Executive Order 18

Q: Why was the executive order issued?

Executive Order 18 was issued as part of New York State's expanded efforts to incorporate sustainability initiatives at State facilities. It follows Executive Order 4, which promotes green procurement and agency sustainability programs. Executive Order 18 is more specific, and limits the purchase of bottled water with State funds as a result of the growing awareness regarding the environmental impacts of choosing bottled water over tap water. As stated directly in the order, the State has an obligation to promote sound environmental practices, such as conserving, improving and protecting the State's natural resources, reducing pollution and conserving energy. The production and sale of bottled water requires the expenditure of energy in its manufacture, transport, chilling and storage, which also results in the emission of greenhouse gases. Because most water bottles are not recycled, they contribute to litter and incur disposal costs. New York State is home to some of the highest quality and best tasting water in the nation, and taxpayers have made significant investments in New York's drinking water infrastructure. The order is intended to maximize the return on that investment, and to minimize unnecessary expenditures and environmental impact associated with bottled water. For additional details, please see the accompanying press release issued May 5, 2009.

Q: What are the primary obligations of each state agency under the order?

In brief, the Order requires each executive agency to develop and begin implementation of a plan to eliminate the expenditure of state funds for the purchase of bottled water at state facilities. A copy of the plan will be due to OGS by November 5, 2009. The Order sets forth the minimum considerations to include in the plan, and a deadline of May 1, 2010, to eliminate expenditure of state funds for bottled water, except in certain limited circumstances. Among other considerations, each agency's plan must include an assessment of the capability of existing facilities to provide tap water for consumption and identify reasonable improvements that can be made to increase this access where necessary.

Additionally, each agency must submit an annual report on its progress in implementing its plan. The Order permits this report to be made in conjunction with the annual report required und er Executive Order 4: Establishing a State Green Procurement and Agency Sustainability Program. The annual report must be made until the Director of State Operations determines that full compliance with the Order has been achieved by all executive agencies.

The Order confers additional obligations on the Office of General Services (OGS), the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Q: What agencies are required to comply with the Order?

The Order states that it applies to all executive agencies, and defines "executive agency" as "any department, agency, division, commission, bureau or other entity of the state over which the Governor has executive power." Agencies should consult with their counsel's office if they require more particularized guidance on this issue.

The Order notes that public entities are not subject to its requirements, such as local governments and school districts, but are encouraged to work toward the goal of eliminating bottled water purchases, and authorizes OGS, DOH and DEC to provide guidance that will assist these entities in doing so.

Q: What does the agency EO 18 plan need to cover?

In sum, the plan must assess your agency's current ability to provide potable tap water for drinking at its facilities, identify improvements that will be needed to achieve compliance with the Order, and describe the efforts it will employ to achieve compliance.

The best response to this question can be found directly in the Order. It states that the plan must include, but not be limited to, the following factors:

"(a) a description of the specific projects, programs, actions and policies to be undertaken to achieve compliance with this Order; (b) a description of any ongoing use of bottled water and the extent to which such use complies with this Order; (c) an assessment of the capability of existing facilities to provide tap water for consumption, including accessibility of water fountains and tap water dispensers, water quality, and constraints on access to tap water for consumption in place of bottled water; (d) identification of reasonable improvements that can be made to agency facilities to provide or increase reasonable access to tap water for consumption in place of bottled water, and (e) a description of steps the agency will take to avoid new contractual commitments to purchase bottled water."

Q: How much detail is required in the agency plan?

The appropriate level of detail to include in the plan will depend upon the size and complexity of an agency's facilities and whether or not the agency determines that it already provides adequate tap water facilities for consumption. OGS has prepared a template for use as starting point, which may be found in our planning template. At a minimum, the plan must include the five factors outlined in the Order and described in the question above. The plan does not need to describe in painstaking detail the location and type of each and every water fountain and faucet in every facility you occupy. A summary of facts corresponding to the items identified in Section 2 (a)-(e) of the Order should enable OGS to measure your agency's progress over time for purposes of its annual report to the Director of State Operations.

Q: What information will OGS provide to assist agencies in developing their plans?

In addition to these FAQ's, OGS has prepared a template for use as a starting point and additional resources on this website. You may also e-mail with specific questions as they arise, and OGS will do its best to provide you with responsive information. In addition to these resources, OGS anticipates holding a planning meeting for interested agency designees in August, 2009. Details will be posted on the site as they become available.

Q: My office resides in a leased space, what can we do to comply with EO 18?

State leases contain a clause requiring the landlord to supply potable water sufficient for drinking, washroom and cleaning purposes in the premises. In addition, most State leases contain a standard clause requiring landlords to comply with pertinent laws, rules, and orders. If your agency occupies leased space and does not appear to have an adequate potable tap water supply, the issue should be discussed with the landlord in order to achieve appropriate resolution consistent with the terms of the lease. Agencies may also contact its liaison in OGS Real Estate Planning and Development for additional guidance or assistance in achieving a satisfactory resolution.

Q: If an agency does not currently purchase bottled water and does not operate facilities, does it need to file a plan in November 2009 and/or a report in March 2010?

Yes. An agency in this situation may have a much simpler plan and report than others, but it still must comply with these requirements of the Order. For example, a future plan of compliance would not be necessary, however assessment data would still be required.

Q: My agency does not buy bottled water, do we still need to have an agency coordinator?

Yes, all agencies are required to have a coordinator even if bottled water is not purchased. The coordinators will be assisting with the reporting requirements under EO 18.

Q: My office has water coolers that are paid for by employees who started a water club. Are these affected by EO 18?

No, the Order does not ban employee-supported water clubs paid for with non-state funds. However, agencies are required to identify reasonable improvements that can be made to agency facilities to provide or increase reasonable access to tap water for consumption in place of bottled water. In making reasonable improvements to the access and appeal of tap water, agencies may spur employees to voluntarily choose to drink it in place of bottled water. The executive order is not stricty concerned with saving the state money, but is also concerned with the quality of water that people consume, the promotion of municipal water systems, and communicating the understanding that bottled water has higher environmental and resource costs than existing water systems.

Q: Is there a problem with large water cooler jugs that are used in water clubs?

Although it may seem that being a part of a water club that uses the large 5 gallon water jugs is safe, there are many reasons why this isn’t true. Most 5 gallon water cooler jugs are not recyclable and around 90% of the used water bottles are thrown into regular trash bins at the expense of greater costs for the environment. The material (oil derived Polyethylene Therephthalate, a.k.a. PET), used to make a water bottle, wastes up nearly 3 times more water to make than will ever go into the bottle. PET production and the truck delivery of bottled water end up in air emissions that poison the air as well as adding to the overall cost because of the fuel used. It has been found that some 5 gallon water jugs leech Bis-Phenol-A (BPA) into the water which studies have shown can have adverse health risks. Bacteria can find its way into your water cooler in many different ways. 5 gallon water bottles are prime candidates for cross contamination because the customers must handle the bottle in order to replace it when one is empty. Whatever bacteria that is present on the individual may end up in the water. Also, bacteria will grow inside of a water cooler unless the cooler is being sanitized on a regular basis. As water sits stagnant in an often times plastic reservoir, bio-film/algae colonization begins. The unsealed reservoir is dark, wet and exposed to air; this creates the ideal breeding ground for the bio-film, which is a slimy layer of Algae, Bacteria, Fungi, and Protozoa. Finally, in order for water to flow out of the bottle, it has to be replaced by air. Everyone is familiar with the "glut-glut" noise and rising bubbles generated in the cooler when water flows out. The air that causes this is coming from the space outside and around the water cooler. Therefore, any airborne contaminants are being transferred into the water supply. In environments such as printing companies and auto body shops, strong and dangerous chemicals in the air finds their way into the bottled water cooler.

Q: Where does bottled water come from?

Bottled water can come from any of a variety of sources including wells, springs, or muncipal tap water.

Q: Isn't bottled water better?

Bottled water is not necessarily safer than your tap water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for tap water provided by public water systems; the Food and Drug Administration sets bottled water standards based on EPA's tap water standards. New York has established standards for both tap and bottled water that are equal to or more stringent than the standards set by EPA and the FDA which are outlined in 10 NYCRR 5-1 and 10 NYCRR 5-6 , respectively. There have been many studies done that indicate that bottled water is not necessarily cleaner/purer than tap water ( It is also important to note that water coolers housing 5-gallon water bottles require regularly scheduled cleaning in order to reduce bacterial growth inside the units. Most manufacturers advise cleaning with a bleach or vinegar solution every time a bottle is changed. This cleaning is rarely done.

Q: How is bottled water treated?

Some bottled water is treated more than tap water, while some is treated less or not treated at all. Consumers who choose to purchase bottled water should carefully read the label to understand what they are buying. Consumers who choose to purchase bottled water should carefully read the label to understand what they are buying. All bottled water produced, used and/or sold in New York State must be certified and bear a certification number which appears on the label of the bottle as
NYSHD Cert. #XXX. For more information on the certification of bottled water in New York State, please see the New York State Department of Health's website.

Q: Where does the water in my building come from?

Nearly all state facilities receive water from the local municipality. In a few cases there may be an individual well system for sites in outlying areas that are not otherwise served. Your agency's administrative officer or facility manager can likely provide more detailed information specific to your situation.

Q: How do I know the water in my building is safe to drink?

Municipal water systems must conduct frequent testing and meet the standards set forth by the EPA and the New York State Department of Health.

Q: What is a drinking water standard?

Under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA sets standards for approximately 90 contaminants in drinking water. For each of these contaminants, EPA sets a legal limit or requires a certain treatment. Water suppliers can not provide water that doesn't meet these standards. New York State has established standards in 10 NYCRR 5-1 that are equal to or more stringent than the standards set by the EPA.

Q: Will a municipal water system let us know if there is a problem with the water?

Water suppliers must provide their customers with annual drinking water quality reports (or consumer confidence reports, see next question). These reports will tell consumers what contaminants have been detected in their drinking water, how these detection levels compare to drinking water standards, and where their water comes from.

Q: Can I get a copy of the consumer confidence report that covers my building?

Reports for major water systems are available online here.

Q: My facility gets water from an on-site well. Are there regulations to cover that?

The New York State Department of Health has specific regulations that cover the construction and use of individual water wells. If the well serves 25 people or more it may be classified as a public water supply. For more information, check with your local health department representative.

Q: Is the water in my building tested?

OGS conducts random testing in the facilities it owns. This sampling may include lead and/or bacteria testing. In non-OGS owned buildings such testing may or may not be conducted. For specific information, contact your tenant service representative and they will contact building management.

Q: Why does OGS do these tests?

The random testing is conducted to document that our systems are in compliance with the state and federal standards.

A test for heterotrophic bacteria can give an indication of the overall sanitary quality and the effectiveness of water treatment units. These harmless bacteria can grow in a film on the insides of pipes or on the carbon granules in water filters. A high count indicates that the system may need better maintenance and/or treatment.

Q: Does our water need to be tested?

If you are served by a public water system , testing may not be necessary. The executive order does not specifically require water testing. Agencies that own and operate buildings should review existing water testing protocols and evaluate whether changes are needed. To encourage occupants and visitors to drink the available tap water, it may be helpful to share the results from recent water tests.

Q: How do I determine if my facility's plumbing is "adequate"?

Agencies will need to make judgment calls. Things to consider might include the incorporation of spigots, which are more convenient than traditional bubblers or sink faucets for filling reusable water containers, and the relative convenience of the locations and accessibility of chilled water dispensers.

Q: How do I determine if plumbing for new construction is "adequate"?

For new construction or renovation of existing facilities, include as an accessory item a water bottle refill capability such as a spigot or a gooseneck glass filler which operates with a push button.

Q: How do we start the process of having our water tested?

If you are served by a public water system, testing may not be necessary. Contact your building management to determine if any tests are being performed. For additional questions, contact your local health department representative.

Q: Is there a certain company that should be used to test our water?

There is a list of certified testing facilities at: If you contact your local health department representative, they should be able to help you choose a facility.

Q: If an agency wants to test its water, who will bear the cost?

If you are in a state office building run by OGS, OGS already tests its water and bears that cost.

Q: What should we test the water for?

Your local health department representative can help determine what tests are appropriate and if any are necessary.

Q: When we get the test results back, how can we assess the findings?

Your local health department representative can assist you with the test results.

Q: What funding is available to agencies to make improvements to their current drinking water?

In developing your plan, you may determine that improvements are needed and these improvements may form the basis for a capital budget request.