Water Watch NYC

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The Water in Our Parks vs. the Water in Our Sinks

Prospect Park Fallkilll Falls

Prospect Park's Fallkilll Falls

I recently came across a membership request postcard from the Prospect Park Alliance touting the restoration of their beautiful Fallkilll Falls. An interesting piece of trivia about Prospect Park is that its whole water system — lakes, waterfalls, beaches, islands — is entirely man-made. It’s a pretty fantastic feat of engineering (it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux and its construction began in 1866), but it involves a dirty little secret.

The vast and impressive Prospect Park waterway, including its two pools, its stream through the Ravine, the 60-acre Lake and the Lullwater that connects the Ravine to the Lake, all starts with the waterfall at Fallkill Falls. Have you ever wondered where all the water in Prospect Park Comes from?

The answer may surprise you. Since the entire system is man-made, it isn’t a naturally occurring system boosted by rain and other features of Brooklyn’s natural habitat and climate. Instead, the water actually comes from a pipe that has a valve that can be opened or closed, much like the faucet of your kitchen sink.

Actually, it’s more like your kitchen sink than you realize: Fallkilll Falls and your kitchen sink actually get their water from the same source. The only difference is that New York City charges you for your water use but they don’t charge Prospect Park. That’s right, the cost of water in New York City has to be high enough to offset the cost of every single drop of water in Prospect Park (and many other parks in the city, for that matter) as well as its strain on NYC’s water infrastructure.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating cutting off all water to New York City’s parks. New York is a beautiful city and much of it has to do with the beauty of our parks. The water in Prospect Park used to be supplied by a well until it was determined that it would be cheaper to use free water than to maintain the well. But in the end, don’t we all benefit if we can enjoy the beauty of our parks without it driving up the cost of our water?