The Political History of New York City's Water

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Working on one of the city's many watertanks. (Tracey Samuelson/WNYC)

David Soll, assistant professor at the Watershed Institute for Collaborative Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and author of Empire of Water: An Environmental and Political History of the New York City Water Supply, uses New York City's efforts to secure a safe supply of water to explore the way politics and environment intersect.


David Soll

Comments [10]

PG10025 from Manhattan

Amusing that the guest is from U of Wisconsin Eau Claire, = Clear Water.

May. 07 2013 11:05 AM
Ed Lieberman from Bedford

My daughter worked for the Watershed Agricultural Council,, which is funded by NYC to negotiate conservation easements with farmers upsstate whose lands abut tributaries to the NYC reservoirs, paying them to forego development within a certain distance of the tributaries. I was surprised to learn that the distances negotiated were as little as 15 or 25 ft. from the tributaries. Hardly much protection, if you ask me.

May. 07 2013 11:00 AM
Christine from Westchester

Oops: I meant DEP police.

May. 07 2013 10:56 AM
Joe from nearby

If you drive along Rt 28 west of Kingston you'll see small signs saying "Former Site of [town name]"....e.g. "former site of Olive."

When I first saw them i thought "former?..huh?" Then I looked through the woods & saw the reservoir, and put 2 & 2 together.

I wonder what those little towns were like back in the day, and all the heartache those people suffered. Reminds me of "Deliverance" where they were flooding the valley.

May. 07 2013 10:53 AM
John from Fanwood, NJ

I worked in the Post Office building across Varick Street from WNYC. There was a long-term project at Houston and Hudson Streets that lasted for a couple of years, and I never found out what it was. Is this part of the NYC water tunnel system?

May. 07 2013 10:52 AM
Christine from Westchester

I live right on the Croton res. I moved here after this was all a done deal but I peraonally love the resevoir. It's a lovely large lake and beautiful to look at, jog around and fish in. I can't speak to the property owners issues however.

Note: it's extremly well patrolled by the DEA police.

May. 07 2013 10:50 AM
Pretzels from Reading, Penna.

What about the Ellenville area? Isn't there a town up in that region where the aqueducts are leaking into their basements permanently? I bet those folks have something to say.

May. 07 2013 10:50 AM

I grew up very near the Ashokan Reservoir. I knew people who had been uprooted when the reservoir was built. In years when the water was really low, you could see the foundations of buildings. When the reservoir system was built in the Catskills, the people there were given no say at all (or at least, that's their recollection).

May. 07 2013 10:49 AM
Bobby G from East Village

Mayor Bloomberg, for all his flaws, has made tremendous investments in the New York City water system. He even raised the rates to pay for it rather than over borrow.

What are the positions of the current mayoral candidates on continued investment in the water system? To me that is a lot more important that carriage horses.

May. 07 2013 10:45 AM

How does this contrast with water supplies provided by private contractors?

Our provider is American Water Company --I've never met anybody unfortunate enough to dare drink the tap they are somehow allowed to sell to their customers. It is pungent with chlorine, chloramide (both cancer-causing) at best.

When too many customers call to complain one finds an article placed by their PR dept. in the local Gannett rag patiently instructing customers to "add a few drops of lemon juice" in the water before drinking to reduce any unpleasant odor."

If clean tap water is a ticket to the First World, then where are we, exactly?

For the neighborhoods in NYC which do have access to clean tap water, stay strong, you are rare creatures indeed.

May. 07 2013 10:03 AM

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