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Protecting Drinking Water for 9 Million People
The New York City Watershed, is one of New York State's most important natural resources, providing approximately 1.3 billion gallons of clean drinking water to roughly nine million people (nearly half of the State's residents) every day. This is the largest unfiltered water supply in the United States, and there is a huge stake in keeping the streams and watersheds that supply the six reservoirs in the Catskills as clean as possible. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates the water quality standards that must be met, and to date those standards have been met without having to filter the water supply. Filtration for that volume of water would be prohibitively expensive (billions of dollars), so New York City has invested millions of dollars in programs designed to protect the watershed and maintain high water quality.
Decades of animosity and confrontation between the City and the upstate communities of the watershed began with the taking of land by eminent domain for the creation of the reservoirs, and was fueled by subsequent regulations on land use in the watershed. In 1997, a landmark agreement was signed between New York City, New York State, EPA, the upstate towns comprising the watershed, and various environmental groups. The NYC Watershed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) set forth land use regulations for the watershed, as well as a suite of watershed protection programs funded by the City, such as new and upgraded sewage treatment plants, stormwater control structures, new sand and salt storage facilities, a septic rehabilitation program, and the land acquisition program.
The environmental signatories of the MOA constitute the Clean Drinking Water Coalition (CDWC), and is comprised of The Catskill Center, the New York Public Interest Research Group Fund (NYPIRG), Riverkeeper, Open Space Institute (OSI), and Trust for Public Land (TPL). The Catskill Center submits comments to the USEPA regarding the City's performance on watershed protection and management measures, according to programs set forth in the MOA, and how that relates to the review and renewal of Filtration Avoidance Determinations. As the only environmental signatory organization located within the West-of-Hudson Watershed, The Catskill Center has taken responsibility for monitoring implementation of the MOA locally. Catskill Center staff attend and participate in meetings of the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC), the entity created to implement many of the programs established by the MOA, including management of the $60 million Catskill Fund for the Future (CFF), which is used to provide loans and grants for economic development projects in the West-of-Hudson Watershed. Catskill Center staff serves on the CWC Economic Development and Public Education Committees, the Public Education Advisory Group (PEAG), and attend Sporting Advisory Committee meetings.