The wonders of New York and its drinking water system

By: Edgar Mana-ay

THE CITY of New York is the most populous city in the U.S. with 9 million inhabitants in such a small area of 302.6 square miles. In fact, 69,500 people live (mostly in high rise apartments) in just a square mile of land, the highest population density in the U.S.

A typical American household will have an average of THREE (3) cars but in New York, 52 PERCENT of households DO NOT HAVE A CAR! A car in New York is more of a baggage than a utility because of the crowded streets and cramped places.

In lieu of this, the New York SUBWAY TRANSPORTATION  SYSTEM provides CHEAP transport to 1.76 BILLION passengers a year to any point of the 5 Boroughs (equivalent to our Jaro, or Molo districts in Iloilo City), such as Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, etc., hence, there is no need for a car to go to work.

Because of this, New Yorker spends less of their time and income on transportation than the average American. President Digong is in the right direction in pushing through a subway transport system in Metro Manila before the end of his term. This will certainly reduce travel time and saves billions of pesos in time and gas annually.

In the late 60s, I took the bus from España Extension in Quezon City at 5 p.m. after work and I can still catch up with my 6 p.m. graduate school class at Feati University in Sta. Cruz, Manila. Today the same distance will take THREE TO FOUR hours by bus during same peak hours!

There are many places of interest in New York such as the Times Square where the famous New Year’s watch happens, the well-lighted Broadway Theater District, the Wall Street financial district, the Grand Central Station, which is the world’s largest underground railway station; the Central Park, a 34,000-hectare park which attracts 45 million visitors annually; the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, a symbol of the U.S. and its ideals of freedom, democracy and opportunities; and many more.

By the way, white Americans only account for 35% of the populace while 65% are African, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, and European descent. If one walks the streets of New York, only one out of three people you meet is a white American. There are 800 languages spoken, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world. But what amazes this writer the most is how the 9 million people of New York are supplied with potable water.

Three major watersheds more than a hundred miles away from New York City supply 4.54 million cubic meters per day (mcmd) of potable water to 9 million inhabitants. This means New Yorkers moderately use potable water at only 0.54 cubic meter or 540 liters (roughly 2-1/2 drums) per person per day.

These watersheds are the Delaware and Catskill system west of Hudson River supplying 90%, and the balance of 10% is supplied by the Croton watershed system just north of the city.

The river system from these three watersheds will then feed a dozen reservoirs and controlled lakes, the largest of them is the Pepacton lake with a capacity of 530 million cubic meters. From the reservoirs and lakes, water flows through a series of concrete aqueducts and tunnels (so large that a two-man submarine is used to inspect it for leaks) which extend 92 miles from the Askola reservoir in the Catskill Mountains to the northern boundary of the city solely by gravity.

The difference in elevation causes tap water in homes to reach the 5th floor! It then enters these concrete aqueducts as almost pure water, with zero turbidity and ready to drink without any processing except for the killing of cryptosporidium and giardia, which are natural but harmful organisms, by the biggest ultraviolet (UV) system in the world before entering the city.

IN CONTRAST, water from Tigum river enters Metro Iloilo Water District’s (MIWD) 20-inch pipes in Daja, Maasin, Iloilo with turbidity as high as 1,000 ntu (nephelometric turbidity unit; 0 ntu is required by DOH). The water looks like chocolate during the rainy season, bringing with it tons of mud that clog the bends of the 20-kilometer underground pipeline, reducing its capacity to only 30%.

What is the secret of this potable water system (which is one of five municipalities in the U.S. allowed by the Federal Government to supply unfiltered and untreated water except for UV and chloride treatment) that we in Iloilo can learn?

THERE IS neither HUMAN INTERVENTION NOR ACTIVITIES FROM THE WATERSHEDS UP TO THE RESERVOIRS/LAKES UNTIL IT ENTERS THE UNDERGROUND CONCRETE AQUEDUCTS/TUNNELS TOWARDS THE CITY.

It has a 200-man police force equipped with helicopters and boats to patrol the watershed, the rivers, and the lakes, seeing to it that there is no human encroachment and intervention. The three watersheds also remain in pristine rainforest condition, untouched by humans and so the water it supplies to the lakes and reservoir is also very clean and clear except for the natural harmful bacteria.

In many of my previous columns on Metro Iloilo’s water supply, I have always emphasized the need to heal and rehab the Tigum and Aganan watershed since it is the only and best water source for Metro Iloilo. Apparently, it fell on deaf ears because rehab of the watershed is not included in the P2.35-billion Joint Venture agreement between MIWD and Metropac Water Investment Corporation. It is the people that will continue to suffer from lack of water in the years to come.

At the Moody Garden, a tourist destination in Galveston Island, Texas, is an inscription by Loren Eisley which read: “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”

Note: The author is the hydro-geology Consultant of the Municipality of Pavia.

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