When was the last time a New Yorker died from a water borne disease that came from their tap? Before New York City planners and builders created aqueducts to deliver clean water from the distant countryside, disease loomed large as a public threat. People in crowded neighborhoods often suffered from serious illness when leaky privies polluted backyard water wells. City dwellers dreaded deadly epidemics that periodically spread through dense tenement communities. When it opened in 1842, New Yorkers celebrated the Old Croton Aqueduct – it would be the first piece of a massive water supply system that would begin to solve this problem.
The Aqueduct Education Project offers hands-on student tours and programs at three different historic sites in the Old Croton Aqueduct Historic State Park. These field trip experiences explore why New York’s water supply system is possible, how it works, and how it came to be.
We explore the complex story of the Old Croton Aqueduct and the greater water supply system. This story shows us that sometimes hope, perseverance, skill, human muscle, professional plumbing experts, grit, and collective problem solving can, over time, help us to manage some of society’s most complex problems.
Our programs also help us to think about why some people don’t have reliable access to clean, safe water and what work still needs to be done as we think about water and health in the 21st century.
Top Image: This mural on 4th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, was created by Nicole Schulman and the Groundswell Community Mural Project. For more information, see: Water is Life Mural
The Aqueduct Education Project is a program of New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. For more information about the Old Croton Aqueduct Historic State Park, please go to: NYS Parks