In the fall of 2016 and 2017, New Paltz’s main water supply will be shut off for a 10-week period, as the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will repair the Catskill Aqueduct.
Dave Clouser, the town’s engineering consultant, said the DEP isn’t sure when exactly the shutdown will occur and is asking New Paltz to consider having the shutdown take place sometime during the winter months of December to February.
New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet said Mayor Jason West has been working to get a backup water source since his first term as mayor in 2004.
“They’ve [DEP] been dealing with the village for a long time because the village is technically the DEP’s customer and the town buys water from the village, who buys water from the city,” Zimet said. “So really the village has been dealing with this for a long time and the town got involved about a half a year ago in terms of being involved in this conversation about DEP.”
A contract was signed between the DEP and the village, but the town’s engineer is a part of the project, working with the DEP, Zimet said.
Zimet said she’s not positive whether or not they will definitely find a source of water in New Paltz, but believes there are areas in the town that contain a lot of water.
“We know the DEP just undertook their own quarter of a million dollar study and they seem to believe they found opportunities for water in the town, so I would like to believe, yes, we will find water,” Zimet said.
Zimet said if there is no water source in New Paltz that can yield enough water for the entire community, they would have to spend $18 million for a pipe that will run down Route 208 into the Town of Gardiner and hook into a different aqueduct. This water source will become a permanent.
Councilman Daniel Torres said he has a hard time believing the state will shut down the water supply of one of its universities.
“I know we [the town] talked about how we might not have a water supply, but it’s very unlikely that we will end up not having a water supply just because of the feasibilities for the state of New York,” Torres said. “It would take one call to any of our federal or state representatives and I think that we would figure this out.”
Zimet said if New Paltz is able to find its own water supply, then costs for the town and village users will go down for residents because it will come from a local source. Also, residents will pay less because they are currently paying a to buy water from the village.
Torres said if New Paltz doesn’t have any water over this period it would have huge economic impacts on the community.
“Water is a vital resource,” Torres said. “I think it’s time for us not as just a town, but as a country to realize that. In fact, I will argue that the next thing that people have wars over will be water.”
Ultimately, Torres said he sees the town and village coming up with a solution to ensure that there’s water.
“If I lived in the town, village or at SUNY New Paltz, I would not fear that there will be a moment when there’s no water,” Torres said.
Overall, Zimet said the task of finding a water source for New Paltz has been a great opportunity for the town and village to work together to meet the needs of the community.
“A community that has control of its own destiny via having its own water source is a very lucky community, and hopefully New Paltz will be one of those lucky communities,” Zimet said.