Does this humble building look familiar to you? Chambers like the one pictured here can be spotted throughout the Valley, and chances are you’ve passed similar ones hundreds of times without giving it a second thought. These unassuming structures are the visible parts of the Catskill Aqueduct system, which supplies New York City with about 40 percent of its water. One big hint: This edifice, which contains appliances for controlling and measuring the flow of water, is in Putnam County, not far from Routes 9 and 9D.
One of engineering’s modern-day marvels, work on the Catskill Aqueduct began in 1906. The creation of this conduit, which funnels water from Ulster County’s Ashokan Reservoir into the Big Apple, was no small feat. Consisting of a series of tunnels and dams, the aqueduct stretches 92 miles in length, and took 18 years to complete — at a hefty cost of $177 million. The system crosses the Hudson River at Storm King via a tunnel buried 1,100 feet below the water’s surface — which was dug by hundreds of laborers using steam-powered equipment and horse-drawn carriages. In terms of its magnitude, the construction of the aqueduct rivals that of the Panama Canal.
In addition to the monetary cost, there was also a human price to pay: More than two thousand residents of the Catskills region were displaced in the building process. Lost in the upheaval were 10 churches, 11 schools, and five railroad stations, among other things; even some cemeteries were dug up, with the remains relocated to other plots.
Today, water — approximately four hundred million gallons of it every day — flows through the aqueduct at the rate of about four feet per second. The system also contains what is often called the world’s largest inverted siphon: an inverted U-shaped tube that relies solely on the pull of gravity to keep the water moving.
Do you know in which town this sturdy pump station stands? Submit your answer in the form below; the first reader with the correct response wins a prize. Good luck!
Fun Fact! From the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Web site:
Water from the NYC Watershed is considered to be the “Champagne” of drinking water. It consistently wins annual taste tests against other NYS water sources.