New York City has some of the best drinking water in the United States. The city also has one of the oldest and most unique water systems. Yet, many of our residents take this water source for granted, giving little thought to their daily drinking, cooking, and bathing water.
In recent years, plastic bottles’ impact on the environment has been brought to light, making room for the bottleless water cooler industry. While it’s no secret that the HYDR8 team has built a business around sustainable drinking water sources, we take an active role in educating people and passing along knowledge about water, water sources, and hydration. That’s why we feel it necessary to share the history of NYC’s drinking water with everyone we meet.
The Early Days
In the early 1600s, Dutch settlers founded New York City and began colonizing Manhattan’s southern tip. For the next 175 years, residents in the city and surrounding communities relied on the water from wells, ponds, and natural springs. These water sources were essential for life and are still credited for the success that people found when settling in the city.
However, with population increase also came more waste and pollution. With no real system for disposing of waste, many of these waterways became polluted, and people could not use the water for basic needs. Even the underground taps became contaminated with saltwater from the Hudson and East Rivers. To make up for the lack of water in the city, water was brought into Manhattan from Brooklyn in the early 1700s, but this supply was still not enough to keep up with the growing population.
A Health Crisis
By 1776, the inadequate water supply and poor quality began to take its toll on residents. Fires were allowed to burn, and diseases began to spread. In 1779, state officials handed over water supply control to the Manhattan Company, which was headed up by Aaron Burr. However, the company ignored plans to bring water in from outside the city, and instead used the rest of their surplus funds to create a bank. What is commonly known as Chase Manhattan was once responsible for the lack of clean water throughout NYC, and devastation followed.
According to official records, water contamination was responsible for various health concerns and disease outbreaks in the city in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Between 1795-1803, thousands in NYC died because of yellow fever. A cholera outbreak in 1832, which was also caused by poor health and water sanitation, would lead to another 3,500 deaths in the city. Without clean water, New York City was bound to experience outbreak after outbreak.
Creating a Better Future
In 1830, city leaders got together and formed a plan to provide clean water from the Croton River. Construction began on an aqueduct, and in 1842, NYC residents had fresh drinking water delivered to their homes and businesses. In total, the underground system returned about 90 million gallons of freshwater to NYC per day. The city plans also tapped into reservoirs in Manhattan, which further helped supply fresh water.
In 1905, New York State Legislatures established the Board of Water Supply, which was responsible for carefully studying and identifying additional water sources for the city. The board planned and constructed water systems to four watersheds in what is known as the Catskill Aqueduct. The project was officially complete in 1915.
NYC’s water system includes 19 reservoirs and three controlled lakes that extend from New York to Fairfield County, CT. With a storage capacity of 580 billion gallons, NYC’s water system is a true engineering marvel. It consists of more than 6,200 miles of pipes, aqueducts, and tunnels that are entirely gravity-driven, delivering drinking water to consumers without emitting greenhouse gases.
In our early settler days, clean drinking water was a challenge. But thanks to advances in technology, cooperation from state and city leaders, and a little determination, NYC now has one of the best water supplies around. HYDR8 takes your tap water and drinking water one step further with our bottleless water coolers and ice machines. We believe that water should be cold, refreshing, and clean. To try your cooler free for 8 days, give us a call at (718) 313-0113.