Part of the tradeoff for the advantages of living in most major metropolitan centers is having to tolerate high levels of pollution: smog, ozone, noise, litter, not being able to see the stars at night. And in many cities, residents routinely pay for bottled water in preference to the malodorous stuff that comes out of their taps. But in New York City, the tapwater is so clean and tasty that it gets bottled and sold elsewhere as a prestige product. It’s a miracle a century old, procured with the labor and lives of thousands of engineers and laborers who designed and built the metro area’s extensive system of reservoirs and aqueducts.
The 163-mile Catskill Aqueduct, which transports water from the Ashokan and Schoharie Reservoirs to the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County using only the force of gravity, just marked its centennial in 2016, while communities that tap into it along the way strategized alternative water sources in anticipation of shutdowns for repairs planned for 2017 and 2018. So it seemed to Purple Mountain Press like a good time for an update of Diane Galusha’s definitive 1999 tome Liquid Assets: A History of New York City’s Water System. The revised edition is now on bookstore shelves, and Galusha herself will give a talk titled “The Catskill Aqueduct: A Century of Service” this Saturday morning at the Olive Free Library. The author of several books on regional history, Galusha is on the staff at the Catskill Watershed Corporation and is the founding president of the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown in Delaware County.
As tax-weary citizens wrestle with the costly realities of aging public infrastructure, at a time when government funding seems likely to be shrinking, it’s instructive to keep in mind the sacrifices that our fellow Americans (mostly minorities and recent immigrants) made 100 years ago to make sure that eight million New Yorkers could rely on having safe water to drink. Find out more of the human stories behind this stupendous achievement beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 11 at the Olive Free Library, located at 4033 Route 28A in West Shokan. The lecture is free, and copies of the updated Liquid Assets will be available for purchase. For more information, call (845) 657-2482, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.liquidassetsbook.com.