A mile and a half south of Ireland Corners, just off of Route 208 in the town of Gardiner, the Catskill and Delaware Aqueducts cross each other. The Catskill at that point is about 14 feet in diameter and at surface level in a “cut and cover” style of construction where the bottom half of a pipeline is buried below ground level and the upper part is covered by mounded earth. The Delaware is some 600 to 700 feet below the surface of the ground. Together, the two aqueducts supply New York City with about one billion gallons of water per day from six upstate reservoirs.
At present, the site is surrounded by chain link fence, watched over 24/7 and entered only via a two gate system while New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) constructs a connection costing $21 million between the two aqueducts. This will make possible the movement of up to 365 million gallons daily from the Delaware into the Catskill Aqueduct.
The connection will allow the DEP to reduce turbidity in the Catskill supply after extremely large storms by mixing it with clearer Delaware water and will facilitate two other projects over the next decade. The DEP will shut down the Catskill Aqueduct for two 10 week periods in 2016 and 2017 to replace century-old valves and clean the tunnel lining to maximize its carrying capacity. In 2021-2022, the Delaware Aqueduct will be closed to repair two leaks, during which time the Catskill Aqueduct will be relied upon more heavily for New York City’s water.
Completion of the work on the connector in Gardiner is expected during the summer of 2015. The project will also include a tap for the Town of Gardiner, should we ever decide to avail ourselves of New York City’s water supply. We spoke with Adam Bosch, Director of Public Affairs, NYC DEP, Bureau of Water Supply. He explained: “Any community through which city water infrastructure runs has a right by law to purchase water from the system. They don’t have to get permission; it’s not like we can say yes or no; they have a lawful right to use that water. Now of course we have to approve their engineering plan to get that water. They have to pay to make the connection; they have to run their own water lines and then, of course, they have to pay for the water. The rate paid by upstate communities is about a third of the cost in the city because the cost of maintaining the infrastructure in the city is subtracted; and the upstate communities are buying raw, untreated water from our system. The water supply agreements also require that municipalities have a backup water source if the aqueduct has to be shut down for any reason.” (New Paltz now relies on the Catskill Aqueduct for nearly all its water, and must find an alternative source before the 2016 closing for cleaning and repair.)
The Town of Gardiner has no current plans to use city water, but taps for municipalities must be run through existing aqueduct shafts. Since Shaft 4 of the Delaware Aqueduct was opened to create the connecter, the DEP felt it worth making the installation just in case. This consists of a pipe down the shaft to the Delaware Aqueduct with an accessible valve above ground should Gardiner ever decide to use city water.