New York City already has planned a $3.4 billion investment over the next five years to repair the decaying infrastructure of the century-old Catskill Aqueduct. As 6sqft previously explained, the 92-mile network of tunnels, dams and reservoirs brings the city’s water supply from the Catskill/Delaware and Croton watersheds. If you think this figure is steep, consider the $40 billion that a report from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimates it would cost to repair and upgrade the entire state’s aging water infrastructure over the next 20 years. As the Daily News explains, in NYC alone there were 562 water main breaks in 2015, and throughout the state, contamination is leading to concerns over clean drinking water.
“Too many places are dealing with water main breaks, leaks, contaminated drinking water and other problems that can result in public health threats, property damage or inconvenience for residents and businesses. New York needs to significantly invest in this area, or we’re going to suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, paying for these solutions presents a considerable challenge,” said DiNapoli, who specifically cited aging pipes leading to leaks and water loss, agricultural and stormwater runoff, and, contamination from “industrial sites and inadequate treatment facilities.”
This last point is especially pertinent considering the NYC Department of Education recently found that lead levels at the PS/IS 217 school on Roosevelt Island surpassed those found in Flint, Michigan Though these were non-drinking water samples, the crisis in Flint arose after a system-side breakdown in treatment.
To fund the projected $40 billion project over the next two decades, DiNapoli said it will fall on local governments with help from the state and feds. He noted that New York’s 27 public water authorities have a combined revenue of about $4.5 billion, and he’s called on them “to develop multi-year financial and water capital plans, create legal capital reserve funds, and develop options to pay for needed projects that include federal and state resources.” Governor Cuomo already proposed $2 billion over the next five years for clean water projects, but the EPA estimates it will cost $22 billion through 2030 just to maintain the existing infrastructure, while the NY Health Department puts this number at a whopping $39 billion.
- NYC Water 101: From the Catskill Aqueduct and Robotic Measurements to Your Tap
- De Blasio to allocate $300 million and accelerate construction of third NYC water tunnel
Lead image: Allaben-Shandaken water tunnel, part of the Catskill system