Did you know that construction on a massive water tunnel has been going on beneath the city since 1969? Mayor Bloomberg announced the completion of the Manhattan portion of the 60-mile-long New York City Water Tunnel No. 3 project last week. The new tunnel opening activates an 8.5 mile long waterway underneath the city that will provide Manhattan with 350 million gallons of drinking water everyday.

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Tunnel No. 3 will be made up of four stages in total, the first of which runs underground up to 800 feet in some places starting from the Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers, cutting across Manhattan around 78th Street and then to Roosevelt Island before it ends in Astoria. Last week, Mayor Bloomberg announced the completion of the second stage, which serves as the Manhattan portion.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has been building the project for the better part of four decades to provide New York City a third connection to our upstate water supply. The tunnel still has two stages that will be built in the future to connect the pipeline with the rest of Queens, Brooklyn, and the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester.

Currently, there are already two similar tunnel systems supplying NYC with drinkable water. Tunnel No. 1 was put into service in 1917 and No.2 nearly 20 years later in 1936.  According to the city, completing City Water Tunnel No. 3 will provide New York with critical redundancy, allowing the DEP to shut down and repair City Water Tunnel No. 1 for the first time since it was put into service.

Images © NYC Mayor’s Office and NYC Water/DEP Archives