Stop # 8: The New York City Aqueduct

Under Your Feet—The reason NY bagels and pizza taste so good

Ever wonder why New York bagels taste so incredible? The reason is nearly 1,600 feet below you—the East Delaware Aqueduct, the longest continuous tunnel in the world, which carries water from the Catskill Mountains to New York City.

Until the 1700s, New York City residents depended solely on wells and rainwater reservoirs for water. But as the population grew, soaring from 60,000 to 200,000 from 1800 to 1830, there was increasing danger of tainted water causing epidemics of yellow fever, cholera, and typhoid.

In 1842, the City built its first aqueduct, drawing water from the Croton River in Westchester County down to Manhattan. But it didn’t take long before Croton's 90 million gallons per day could not meet the city’s growing needs.

So the city looked to upstate New York as the only viable alternative, and in a section of the eastern Catskill Mountain range, the Catskill Aqueduct was built, drawing water from new reservoirs 125 miles away. But even this would soon fail to meet the city’s growing demands.

By 1927, New York officials set their eyes on several tributaries of the Delaware River as an additional water source. The plan was initially stalled by a legal fight with New Jersey that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Work finally began on the Delaware Aqueduct in 1937. That aqueduct, which runs right below where you are standing, was completed in 1945, with the Rondout, Neversink, Pepacton, and Cannonsville Reservoirs north of OSR successively added to the system between 1950 and 1964.

The Delaware section provides 50 percent of the City's daily water needs. The largest of the res-ervoirs, Pepacton, can hold over 140 billion gal-lons of water.

Today, the entire water system, which covers close to 2,000 square miles—nearly the size of the state of Delaware--has a storage capacity of 580 billion gallons providing more than 1.2 billion gallons of drinking water daily to eight million city residents, and another one million users in four upstate counties bordering the system. (Map

The system, which includes a network of 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes, was also designed to minimize the effect of localized droughts and take advantage of excess water in any of the watersheds through a system of interconnections that permit the exchange of water from one to another.

Between its reservoirs, lakes and 6,200 miles of pipes, aqueducts, and tunnels, the NYC water system is considered a marvel of modern engineering. For those of you thinking about becoming engineers, one of the great achievements of this system is that nearly all of it uses gravity to move water south. There are very few pumping stations. The tunnel that passes through OSR starts 200 feet below the Pepacton Reservoir and then descends another 1,400 feet where you are standing, enabling the water to flow unassisted.

DIRECTIONS: Continue north on the White Trail.