Drinking water and how to get it has become an urgent issue in New Paltz, which faces a thirsty future in 2016 and 2017 when the Catskill Aqueduct goes down for repair.
Both town and village officials are searching for ways to bring water to the college town — before the 10-week shutoff period expected when the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) closes it for repairs.
For now though, the two entities are going their own way. Village Mayor Jason West is in talks with the DEP to look for a backup water supply. Town officials want to build one of their own. In the Town of New Paltz, which buys water from the village, the issue is independence.
“I think for a number of years and years and years, we’ve talked about creating our own system,” Supervisor Susan Zimet explained. “We’re trying to have a little bit more of our destiny in our own hands. We’re trying to look at development on South Putt [Corners Road].”
In late April, the town started an initial investigation of a new water supply. Town officials looked at potential water sources, including wells on private land. They looked into funding opportunities.
“The clock’s really ticking,” said David Clouser, the town engineer. “Whatever we do, we need to move on this.”
For town residents, in terms of water, the price is wrong. “The cost of the water is very high. It also went higher just a few months ago,” he said. Having a town water supply independent of the village would allow for infrastructure improvements.
“Right now, it’s a situation where any extension that needs to happen for water service through the village lines is requiring annexation to the village. And that pretty much ties the town up,” Clouser said.
Under those parameters, if the town wants development it basically requires new businesses to drill their own water wells. “That’s an issue, because the kind of well determines the size of the development. To be able to bring in a bigger employer is tough, if they have to do their own water system.”
For the village, at least one option is off the table. DEP officials have conducted pro forma tests of a number of backup water supply sources. The Wallkill River failed their drinking water standard due to pollution.
“It’s a community-wide problem to get this backup system,” the engineer said. “I mean, right now the village has one week’s supply of water out of the reservoir system. If the aqueduct’s down, something has to happen. We’re trying to work toward a solution.”
Town officials hope to meet with the DEP and Village Board jointly to discuss the water supply situation in mid-August.