News Feature | November 10, 2016

New York City Activates ‘Critical Backup' Water Tunnel

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

New York City activated a drinking water tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island last month after the $250 million project faced delays due to Hurricane Sandy.

“Mayor Bill de Blasio said [in October] that the tunnel is a critical backup that can deliver up to 150 million gallons of safe drinking water per day to Staten Island residents in the aftermath of a disaster,” The Associated Press reported.

“Called a siphon, the tunnel runs under New York Harbor and replaces two, nearly 100-year-old siphons. Construction on the tunnel was suspended due to damage from Sandy. When work resumed in 2014, new measures were put in to prevent future storm damage,” the report said.

The tunnel was activated on the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, according to the New York Post.

"Our city is better prepared to tackle 21st century threats like Sandy today than ever before," de Blasio said, per the Staten Island Advance. "This water tunnel is one measure that will help Staten Island spring back to action in the event of a disaster that would disrupt the water supply."

The National Infrastructure Advisory Council, a section of the Homeland Security Department, noted in a recent draft report that there are major challenges to funding water infrastructure resilience in the U.S. It cited “significant underinvestment” in water sector resilience as well as “fragmented and weak federal support” for water resilience as two key problem areas.

“The large portion of public ownership within the sector and the current regulatory structure hinders long-term investment in resilient water infrastructure. Decaying infrastructure is mostly unseen, and problems are not elevated in the public eye until there are major failures,” the draft said.

“Resilience has not been substantially integrated into the actions of federal agencies and resilient outcomes are typically not part of Federal guidance and resources,” it continued.

New York City faces steep water infrastructure challenges.

In 2014, 513 water mains broke in New York City, according to NBC New York. “Estimates are that as much as 20 percent of the treated water that enters the city's pipes leak out before it even makes it to the faucet,” the report said.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Resiliency Solutions Center.