NYC tap water has been called “the champagne of drinking water.” It’s won multiple taste test awards and is credited as the reason NYC bagels and pizza are so delicious. In addition to being famously tasty, NYC tap water is also an impressive feat of engineering. Here, we explore where it comes from, what makes it taste so good, and more secrets!

1. Some of NYC’s Water Comes from Drowned Towns in the Catskills

  • Ashokan Reservoir Construction
  • Ashokan Reservoir

Fresh water first came to New York City via the Croton Aqueduct in 1842. In 1917, construction began on the Catskill Aqueduct which provided six new reservoirs that supplied water to New York City. Many of those reservoirs were built on the site of existing Catskill towns in an area used largely for farming, logging, and bluestone quarrying. To make way for the reservoirs, 2,000 people had to be relocated. In addition to living residents, 1,800 bodies from cemeteries at the sites were unearthed and re-interred elsewhere. Homes, businesses, and trees were torn down.

In total, four towns were submerged and eight were relocated to build the Ashokan Reservoir, the largest reservoir for New York City. Before the water rushed in, whistles were blown for an hour to warn any stragglers to leave. When the water levels are low today, you can see foundations, walls, and other remnants of the lost towns. Learn more about the drowned towns here!