Water Watch NYC

Everything you need to know about water in NYC.


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Ten Ways to Save the DEP – #5: Fix the Delaware Aqueduct

The Delaware Aqueduct issue is one that has been covered before on this blog. Simply put, there is a leak in the 85-mile long Delaware Aqueduct which transports water from some of our upstate reservoirs to New York City. The aqueduct carries about half of our water from our various upstate reservoir systems and has been leaking for over 20 years. The current estimate has the leak at about 36 million gallons of water per day. For more details about the aqueduct leak, as well as a great attempt at a coverup by the DEP, see this past post.

In our past post linked to above, we said, “Unfortunately, little can be done at this point to actually fix the leak.” We stand by this statement. But we want the leak fixed anyway. How can we demand that the leak be fixed and still claim that little can be done to fix the leak? Simple. We’re asking that a system be put in place now that will allow the leak to be fixed down the road.

The leak can’t be fixed now because shutting down the Delaware Aqueduct cuts off about one half of our water. What we need now is redundancy. If we have another tunnel that can carry water from the Delaware Reservoir System to the city, we can completely shut down the Delaware Aqueduct and not lose half our water. This is the project we need to work on now so that we can fix the Delaware Aqueduct later.

We’re not saying anything new. The mayor’s PlaNYC, which has been around since 2007, calls for the same thing (conveniently, PlaNYC doesn’t say anything about the leak in the aqueduct). But the city bungled their first effort at setting this plan in motion when the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles that they had specially made in order to study the leak couldn’t obtain any useful information. Now, like many objectives of PlaNYC, no real progress has been made.

All we’re asking for is for the objectives of PlaNYC to be put in motion. We’ll stop wasting 36 million gallons of water a day, we’ll be a cleaner, greener city, the mayor will have kept at least one promise to his constituents and everyone will be happier (especially the residents of Wawarsing, NY, whose homes and yards are being flooded by the aqueduct leak).


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A Slight Against Nature

The Delaware River Basin Commission, anticipating a drought, intends to limit the flow of cold water from the Cannonsville Reservoir to the surrounding rivers in order to keep more water contained in the reservoir. While this seems like a good thing (more water in the reservoir, more drinking water for New Yorkers), there is in fact a laundry list of reasons why this is a bad idea.

First of all, the trout of the surrounding rivers need a healthy flow of water continuously running through the area in order to thrive. A continuous flow of cold water is not only better for the fish, it is also better for the river itself, serving as a way to clean it out periodically. Water that is too warm or that is not flowing at a high enough rate isn’t good for the river or its fish.

This is just another example of New York City’s mistreatment of the environment of upstate New York and the Delaware Valley. Because our reservoirs take water that would otherwise flow into the Delaware and surrounding rivers, we are required to let some of the reservoirs’ water flow back into the area’s existing rivers. This is the job of the Delaware River Basin Commission. Instead of relying on gambling as a way to increase tourism upstate, we should cultivate and develop the existing tourist attractions provided to us by nature. Instead of suffocating these rivers to a trickle, we must allow them to thrive and to be a prime destination for canoeing, rafting, kayaking and fishing enthusiasts.

As I stand at Washington’s Crossing in Bucks County, seeing the once mighty Delaware River trickle by, I wonder about Washington’s great accomplishment and how it no longer seems significant at all. New York City, in its efforts to strip our great state of one of its greatest features, its beautiful and vast natural environment, has also minimized one of Washington’s greatest achievements.