Why New York City’s Waterworks Works

One hundred years ago, mountain water from the Catskills began flowing into the cupped hands of New York City.

Since those days, New Yorkers have come to take their water for granted, boasting that what comes out of the tap is “the champagne of drinking water.” But with the revelations of contamination in the water supplies of Flint, Mich., and closer to home, in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and in schools in Newark, water management is again on people’s minds.

A look at New York’s system offers reassurance about the water, and a chance to revisit the engineering marvel of a century ago that provides it. Paul V. Rush, an engineer in charge of operating and maintaining the supply north of the city line, says the system’s main principle is treating water at the source “as opposed to the end of the pipe.”


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