The spray from the uncapped city hydrant has come a long way from the lakes and reservoirs upstate.
To create a reliable water supply system for the city, water had to be captured and stored to build a reserve that would even out the peaks and valleys typical of seasonal supply.
Engineers dammed rivers to create a network of reservoirs that collect and release water in a controlled way to consistently serve New York residents. In so doing, more than 30 towns were flooded and more than 9,000 people were displaced in the 19th and 20th centuries.1 From the reservoirs, the water travels over 125 miles to the city in aqueducts, as deep as 2,400 feet underground.2
Three watersheds (Croton, Catskill, Delaware) combine in a system that covers 2,000 square miles of land, includes 18 reservoirs, three controlled lakes, and thousands of miles of aqueducts and tunnels. Collectively, the system holds 558 billion gallons of water and delivers more than 1.35 billion gallons of water to the city — every day.3 That would be enough to fill the entire Empire State Building over four times every 24 hours.