water tunnel

My Journey to Mid-town Earth for Water (Part 2 of 2)

By Elias Rodriguez

New York City’s  Water Tunnel No. 3 has yet to supply one drop of drinking water to the population, nevertheless it is already a world renowned marvel of engineering and water infrastructure savvy. The project is MASSIVE. The water tunnel has already been featured documentaries, magazine spreads and even had a starring role in a Bruce Willis feature film. Guess which one?

As I descended into the darkness to take a tour of the cacophonous capital construction project, I marveled at the foresight it took on the part of elected officials to say YES to a gargantuan investment with little short-term gain, but with a payoff that will yield safe, clean drinking water for generations of thirsty New York residents and visitors.  Through six mayors and $6 billion the public works project inexorably presses on.

Clickety, Clank, Clickety, Clank, went the tiny hoist that took us down to the work area hundreds of feet below. In the darkness, I made a quick mental inventory of my life insurance policy. Sweating under a hard hat, my first impression was how damp and muddy things were. Maybe as a Lord of the Rings fan I was expecting Persian rugs and tea? We met tunnel workers or sand hogs as they are proudly known, avoided getting run over by work trains and learned about metamorphic rock. One caveat is that down under one cannot escape the endless supply of tunnel humor. When is a boring adventure not boring? Did you hear the one about schist rock?  My spelunking sojourn was exciting, educational and eerie. The City has its own slideshow here. More

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My Journey to Mid-town Earth for Water (Part I)

By Elias Rodriguez

I am not a Hobbit, but I have travelled deep into the Earth in search of adventure, mystery and a look at how New York City is working to keep the population’s drinking water secure, safe and clean.

The two reservoir systems that supply the City drinking water are the Catskill/Delaware watershed west of the Hudson River and the Croton watershed east of the Hudson. Getting all that water, about 1.4 billion gallons a day, give or take a swiggle, to nine million thirsty people is a fluid feat.  In the Big Apple, a big part of the drinking water story is 800 feet underground, far beneath the pitter patter of pedestrians. The vital public works project, sight unseen, is City Water Tunnel No. 3.

At the invitation of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, I had the opportunity to tour water tunnel No. 3, the largest capital construction project in New York City’s history. Water tunnel No. 3 will supplement the water supply currently provided by water tunnels No. 1 and No. 2.  Way back in 1954, the City envisioned the need to construct a third water tunnel for City residents. Thanks to years of intelligent infrastructure investments, actual construction of the water tunnel began in 1970. When completed in 2020, the 60 mile long tunnel will supply the City with drinking water from the Upstate watershed. For my fellow Public Administration aficionados, please note that City officials are spending money, OMG!, for something that will not produce revenue for 50 years. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.