With almost half of its population living in the urban center of New York City, the state of New York has a unique water supply situation. New York is covered in rivers and lakes, providing water to the state through various watersheds and surface supplies.
While New York has no shortage of water, its infrastructure is quite old. The two tunnels that bring water over 100 miles from Upstate New York to the city were built over a century ago. A new tunnel was started in 1970 but is still years away from completion.
Antiquated infrastructure and long travel distances can lead to a multitude of opportunities for contamination. Mineral absorption alone leads to one of the most common problems for New Yorkers: hard water.
Hard water that goes unchecked can lead to more than simple dry skin or hair. Once the limescale or white scale buildup pervades the plumbing system, it can cause major issues.
New York is as diverse a state as they come and thus, has many different water supply needs and issues.
Common Water Problems by City
New York State requires about a billion gallons of water a day to keep its residents happy. That is a lot of water to keep safe.
Generally, New York enjoys clean water but each community has its own issues.
New York City
Rotten Egg Smell
New York City
New York City is fortunate to have a water supply capable of producing enough water for its over 8 million residents. The water must travel from reservoirs over 125 miles away.
The tunnels carrying this water are now over 100 years old and feature some wear and tear. As the water makes its long journey, it undoubtedly picks up some dissolved minerals along the way.
City residents enjoy relatively clean water that requires little chemical treatment. New Yorkers often claim to enjoy the taste straight from the tap.
Buffalo gets its water from the large surface storage facility known as Lake Erie. As it is a natural resource, minerals make their way into the supply. This ensures Buffalo residents will need to deal with hard water and its associated symptoms.
Buffalo, unfortunately, has sulfur in its water supply. This can lead to a rather unpleasant, rotten egg smell. While uncommon, the taste of the water can be negatively impacted, as well.
Rochester water travels a mere 30 miles from the two lakes that are the primary source. Hemlock Lake holds the crown as the original water supply for the city of Rochester. A supply line built in 1876 still uses the force of gravity to provide Rochester residents with clean water.
Canadice Lake now provides supplementary water flow. Rochester experiences the typical difficulties of cities sourcing from a surface water supply like high minerality and hard water.
Compared to the New York City water supply, Syracuse employs a source just a stone throw away. Skaneateles Lake is about 20 miles from the city and supplies the entire population of Syracuse.
This supply is unique as it is approved to go unfiltered. A screening system is used to remove any materials. The water is then chlorinated to disinfect it and fluoridated for dental health.
The lack of filtration does allow bacteria to enter the system at times, leading to the smell of sulfur (rotten eggs). Any metallics in the water combine with the high-mineral content, turning the water brownish in some cases. This can lead to stains in washing machines, sinks, and tubs.