Friday, December 8, 2017

NY Watershed Takeaways for Health

New York City water is high quality and safe to drink. Careful steps are taken through the process of collecting, testing and transporting the water to your home. 

This post was written by Bronx Health REACH staff members Kelly Moltzen and Emily Oppenheimer.

In September 2017, we toured the Croton region of the watershed with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In NYC, water is collected from two main regions: (1) Catskill Delaware and (2) the Croton System. Since its creation through the present, the system has been committed to transporting high quality water.

Water is essential for health and cognition, yet water intake among children and adults is below the recommended levels nationally. The alternative to water is often sugar-sweetened beverages, which are strongly linked to obesity. Bronx Health REACH has taken many steps to promote water as the healthiest alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.

Throughout the tour, we were impressed by the steps taken to ensure high water quality. The DEP uses the natural ecology of the land to manage the system:  trees and other forest plants naturally filter the water. The DEP is also growing new forests to further the natural filtration process. The DEP approaches new forests with resiliency planning, by planting new trees that are acclimated to warmer regions. NYC uses a pure, natural water source, and over 90% of the water does not need to be filtered. There are only three other cities in the US that have water sources that don’t need filtration, which include Boston, Seattle and San Francisco. All water goes through quality testing before being delivered to NYC. The water is clean and safe: UV rays are used to stop the replication of microorganisms in the water.

The NYC watershed system was created in the 1840’s to ensure safe and clean water would be accessible to all people. Prior to the creation of the watershed system, unsafe water led to infectious diseases like cholera. Construction began in 1837 on the Old Croton Aqueduct, which was led by immigrant labor. Many people in the region lost their homes to make way to build the new infrastructure. In NYC we owe our gratitude to those who lived in upstate New York during this time and sacrificed their homes for our water. This system ran south to the Highbridge in the Bronx, and helped to deliver water to Manhattan. Although Highbridge is presently used as a pedestrian walking bridge, it was originally created and used as an aqueduct.

Since the creation of the water system, the DEP, in collaboration with NY communities, take many steps to ensure the water collection and surrounding region is high quality. Historically, the NYC water system has improved our health for generations. It vastly improved public health in the past by providing a clean water source to all. Presently, it also provides a healthy beverage to all.

To learn more, visit:

The New York Times article, How New York City Gets Its Water

New York City Department Environmental Protection 

NYC 2016 Drinking Water Supply and Quality Report

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