Everything is bigger in New York City and it’s water system is no different. The New York Times has a fantastic article that looks into where New York gets its water, how it gets to the city, and how they monitor the health and safety of the water that 9.5 million people drink.
The city gets its water from a series of watersheds which feed three reservoirs through an aqueduct that is 1,100 feet below the Hudson River. Gravity moves the water along 92 miles.
The city constantly monitors the health and safety of the water:
Field scientists are constantly monitoring temperature, pH, nutrient and microbial levels.
Last year, robotic buoys recorded 1.9 million measurements, and field scientists collected 15,500 samples from reservoirs, streams and aqueducts upstate for analysis.
All of the data is fed into a centralized computer system, which also takes into account advanced weather forecasting to make determinations to predict the quality and quantity of water that day — and even six months into the future — at each reservoir.
It’s later chlorinated and other chemicals are added to raise pH levels high enough so lead doesn’t contaminate the water. To make sure contaminates don’t get into the system after it’s treated at the plant, more tests are done in the city itself.
Scientists collected 31,700 water samples in the city last year. More than 383,000 tests were performed on them, either at the sampling stations or at a laboratory in Queens. Scientists looked for E. coli, which could indicate sewage contamination; Cryptosporidium and giardia, common culprits of stomach illnesses; and other bacteria.
They also checked for toxic metals like lead, organic contaminants and unregulated chemicals like perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a toxic chemical associated with the making of Teflon.
If you’re still worried about lead getting into your water, it’s recommended you flush the system for 30 seconds to two minutes. Water sitting in pipes leads has the greatest risk of contamination.
Finally, New York has the best tasting water and that’s because the minerals found in the limestone of the Catskill Mountains have low levels of calcium which can taste bitter.