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A milestone for the protection of NYC’s drinking water

watershed agreement signing

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Commemorating 25th anniversary of NYC Watershed Agreement, signed January 21, 1997

Ashokan Reservoir

Photo: David Kidd

Today is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the historic New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement by NYC, New York State, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and all of the towns, villages and counties across the 1,600-square-mile watershed that supplies unfiltered drinking water from the Catskill Mountains to 10 million consumers in NYC and the Hudson Valley.

Riverkeeper was among five environmental parties signing the agreement on January 21, 1997. We have been a key partner in negotiations between the City and watershed municipalities on issues of land acquisition, protection and partnership programs, NYC Watershed Rules and Regulations, and filtration avoidance. Our collaborative efforts have established programs for agricultural best practices, septic repair, stream restoration and conservation easements, all of which benefit landowners in the Catskill / Delaware Watersheds and help to protect water quality in the mountain streams and drinking water reservoirs.

The continued success of these programs has allowed upstate and NYC ratepayers to avoid the astronomical costs of constructing and operating an enormous plant to filter the billion gallons of drinking water delivered daily to nearly half of New York State’s population. Through our commitment to and engagement with NYC and our other partners, Riverkeeper looks forward to the continued success of the agreement, now and in challenges that lie ahead.

Looking forward, and beyond New York City, we need to extend the use of the bedrock law that allows this program to succeed – the state’s Watershed Rules and Regulations – so communities around the state can better protect their water supplies. It’s also critical that we recognize the need for a new paradigm for managing the watershed, in light of climate extremes and unacceptable impacts on communities and the environment downstream from its reservoirs. For more on these impacts, visit

More information on the MOA and NYC Watershed >

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