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Gotham Gazette

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Drinking Water and the Kensico Reservoir

UPDATE (1/27/2000) - Kensico: "No Brainer"
The Environmental Protection Committee of the City Council passed a resolution on 26 Jan 2000 officially voicing their objection to the proposed expansion of Route 120 aside the Kensico Reservoir. Council member and Committee Chair Stanley Michels dubbed the issue a "no-brainer." Any construction, he concluded, would be a "clear and present danger" to the integrity of the reservoir which supplies 9 million New Yorkers with drinking water each day. Council member CarriĂ–n Jr. pronounced the project "ill-conceived" and "stupid." The resolution calls on Governor Pataki to direct the DOT to abandon the expansion, adopting the 'no-build' scenario in the DOT proposal. The resolution further suggests advancing only those improvements necessary to ensure traffic safety. Chairman Michels, a co-sponsor of the resolution, questioned Governor PatakiĂŞs action, given his generally green leanings and his active role in watershed protection. Response from the Governor yet to be heard...


The 1997 Watershed Memorandum of Agreement formalized cooperation between NYC, NYS and US EPA to protect the state's watersheds and drinking water. The Agreement secured $11.5 million from the City and $7.5 million from the State to purchase land in the Croton Watershed (and another $250 million in the Catskill/Delaware watershed, west of the Hudson) As recently as December 22nd, the City purchased a 16 acre tract near the Kensico Reservoir, which will serve as an additional buffer to protect the water supply.

These protective measures could face a serious setback if the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) has its way. The DOT has proposed widening Route 120, a commuter road with increasing traffic that runs alongside the Kensico Reservoir. Policymakers and environmentalists are concerned with the possible adverse effects on the Reservoir as a result of increased runoff and sedimentation, and loss of wetlands. Serious degradation of the waterĂ…s quality would require a filtration plant, estimated to cost $6 billion dollars to construct, and $150 million annually for operations. Though DOT has expressed willingness to accommodate concerned parties, they have yet to revamp their plan.


NYC Water Supply - Valuable background information on the size and breadth of our watershed and water supply system.

Regional Watershed Maps - Click on the boxes for a closer view. Also worth a glance is the DEP's history of the NYC water supply.



- The NYC water supply system provides 1.4 billion gallons of drinking water to almost 9 million New Yorkers every day.

- The NYC watershed is comprised of 19 reservoirs in an area of almost 2,000 square miles.

- The NYC water supply is divided into the Croton System and the Catskill/Delaware system. 90% of NYC's water supply is moved to the Kensico Reservoir before being delivered to customers in the City and Westchester.

- The Kensico Reservoir serves as the terminal reservoir for six other in the Croton and Catskill/Delaware system.

- The Kensico Reservoir holds 30.6 billion gallons of water at full capacity.

Unified Watershed Assessment - The Department of Environmental Conservation's assessment of NYS watersheds, a prerequisite for receiving federal monies. The introduction provides a helpful overview of the quality of NYS waters.

Watershed Memorandum of Agreement - Signed in January 1997, this agreement between City, State, the EPA and environmentalists formalizes voluntary partnerships and local protection. Diehards should also look at the final rules and regs for the agreement.

"NYC Signs Purchase Contracts for Lands Near Kensico and New Croton Reservoirs" - Details DEC's acquisition of lands near the Kensico Reservoir as part of the Watershed Land Acquisition Program. Originally slated for development, this environmentally sensitive land will now be preserved as a reservoir buffer.


Statement on the Kensico - Dan Klotz, Communications Director at the NY League of Conservation Voters, explains why further development of the 9.9 square miles of the Kensico watershed is fraught with difficulties.

The Comptroller Weighs In - In a December 16 press conference, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, in conjunction with environmental advocates, denounced the Route 120 plan and vowed to take steps to stop its construction.

Transportation Alternatives - Says that expanding Route 120 is not only bad environmental policy, but bad transportation policy.

Natural Resources Defense Council - In the introduction to a lengthier report, NRDC warns that the Kensico and West Branch reservoirs are especially vulnerable to urban sprawl, and only a comprehensive pollution prevention program can ensure their protection.

The Friends of the Croton Watershed - A coalition of community and environmental groups who oppose the proposed expansion.

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