Vintage photos show the spectacular engineering feat that brought drinking water to New York City, 1906-1917

These incredible old photos show how one of the world's greatest engineering feats was created to bring water to New York City in 1906-1915. In 1905, the city's newly established Water Supply Board began the Catskill Aqueduct project, which would play an additional role in supplying the city's growing population of residents and visitors.

These projects rank as the largest municipal water-supply venture ever undertaken, and as an engineering task perhaps second only to the Panama Canal.

In 1898, Greater New York, with a population of 3.5 million, was formed through the consolidation of Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. In the early decades of the twentieth century, water engineers in New York began to look further into the Catskill Mountains' sources beyond the Hudson River.

The area in question was formerly an agricultural area, with logging activity as well as quarrying of bluestone. More than two thousand people were relocated, including a thousand New Yorkers with other homes. To limit water pollution, 32 cemeteries were explored and 1,800 residents were buried elsewhere. Residents were offered $15 from the city, their relatives were immolated and re-buried elsewhere.

Buildings and industries were relocated or burned, trees and brush removed from the floor of the future reservoir – all work mainly by local laborers, African-Americans from the South, and Italian immigrants.

The construction of the new water supply officially began in 1907. The aqueduct proper was completed in 1916 and the entire Catskill water harvesting system, including three dams and 67 shafts, was completed in 1924. The total cost of the water harvesting system was $177 million ($2.4 billion). 2015 dollars).

The 92-mile (148 km) aqueduct includes 55 miles (89 km) of cut and covered aqueducts, 14 miles (23 km) of grade tunnel, 17 miles (27 km) of pressure tunnel, and nine miles (10 km). ) steel siphon.

67 shafts are sunk for various purposes on the Aqueduct and City Tunnel, with depths ranging from 174 to 1,187 feet (362 m). Water flows by gravity through the aqueduct at a rate of about 4 feet per second (1.2 m/s).

In 1914, the dam's wings were terraced with three- to four-ton blocks of locally mined bluestone, and 780 men and 244 mules and horses laid the macadam on 40 miles of reservoir roads. The local water was so pure that New Yorkers had long been buying it from Pine Hill's Crystal Spring Water Company in five-gallon carboys.

The facility therefore did not require a filtration plant, but was instead given an aeration fountain. The water passed through an aeration basin, a small reservoir of 500 by 250 feet, with four or five feet of pipes at the bottom, allowing streams of 40 to 60 feet into the air.

It oxidized the plant organisms and took away the taste and smell. (Eventually alum was introduced to counteract the effects of turbidity and soda ash to prevent over-acidity, and the water in the Kensico and Hillview reservoirs was twice chlorinated.)

On June 24, 1914, all steam whistles in the zone were turned off at once, marking the official end of the project. Only cleanliness remained. During 1916, workers gradually demolished the camp and plants and makeshift railroads at Brown's station.

The year 1914 was dry, but in 1915 it rained, filling the reservoir to a hundred feet; Water was released into the aqueduct on 22 November. The project was rivaled only by the Panama Canal as an achievement of America's engineering prowess.

The Ashokan reservoir had a capacity to deliver 660 million gallons a day. The surface of the reservoir was equivalent to that of Manhattan below 110th Street. Its contents could fill the Hudson River from Battery at the southern tip of Manhattan to Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County.

It took three days for the theoretical fall to travel from the Catskills to Staten Island, which received its first Ashokan waters in January 1917.

In October 1917, New York City held a three-day celebration of its new water supply, during which 15,000 schoolchildren and a thousand women from Hunter College participated in a contest called the "Good Gift of Water" in Central Park. In addition to the original, the Shohri Reservoir and the Shandken Tunnel were put into use 13 years later in 1928.

Nowadays, the Catskill Aqueduct has an operating capacity of approximately 550 million US gallons (2,100,000 m) per day just north of the Kensico Reservoir in Valhalla, New York. The section of the aqueduct south of the Kensico Reservoir to Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers, New York has a capacity of 880 million US gallons (3,300,000 m) per day.

The aqueduct normally operates well below capacity with an average of about 350–400 million US gallons (1,500,000 m) of water per day. About 40% of New York City's water supply flows through the Catskill Aqueduct.

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