East Hill Notes: Water, water everywhere


Cornell University manages most of its internal needs, including more than 16 miles of streets, 26 miles of sidewalks, refuse disposal, recycling operations, street and bridge maintenance, surface and ramp parking, snow removal, storm sewers, and street cleaning, in addition to millions in contributions on shared community interests (including utilities, housing, schools, and transportation) in and around Ithaca and Tompkins County.

In that mix is a primary need for everyone - water.

Four related topics:
1. The Cornell Water Filtration Plant – regulated by the New York State Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – serves 35,000 students, faculty, staff and visitors, as well as Forest Home and Cornell Heights residents. The plant draws raw water from Fall Creek that has a 125-square-mile watershed originating in Cayuga County’s Lake Como, and can safely provide up to 3.6 million gallons per day if needed. In 2017, the plant produced 413 million gallons, an average of 1.172 million gallons per day.
Gratefully, 2017 and 2018 saw better conditions following the drought of 2016. Groundwater levels have returned to normal, as have regional creek and stream flow.

As always, internal Cornell systems are steadily upgraded, as reflected in representative highlights over recent months:
- The third and final phase of the North Campus Cast Iron Water Main Replacement Project was completed, and the water main was replaced near Balch Hall and Clara Dickson Hall. The next phase will replace the water mains from Balch Hall to Jameson Hall.
- Ultrasonic level probes were replaced at the Water Filtration Plant with radar level probes, and additional monitoring stations were installed in the distribution system to ensure continued water quality.
- The construction of an interconnection station at the Cornell Water Filtration Plant was completed, allowing ease of water transfer between the neighboring Bolton Point water system to the Cornell Water System.
Detailed information about Cornell water - from source to tap - is included in Cornell’s 2018 Annual Water Quality Report with previous reports on Facilities and Campus Service’s Sustainability website.

2. Millions of times each day, New York City residents turn on the faucet, relying on water supplied from 125 miles away in the Catskill Mountains. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is charged with getting clean water from the mountains to the city, and it taps Cornell expertise to help keep the city’s award-winning water pristine, and affordable.
“The New York State Department of Health appreciates the contributions from Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension to the partnerships that protect New York City’s watershed,” said Patrick Palmer, chief of the New York State Department of Health’s New York City Watershed Section. “Their work ensures that the highest levels of drinking water quality are maintained for New York City and upstate consumers.” For more details access, news.cornell.edu/stories/2018/11/cornell-expertise-helps-deliver-clean-safe-water-nyc

3. The New York State Water Resources Institute (WRI), a federally and state-mandated institution, is based at Cornell. Its mission is to improve the management of water resources in New York and the nation. The WRI collaborates with regional, state, and national partners to increase awareness of emerging water resource issues and to develop and assess new water-management technologies and policies. The WRI builds and maintains broad, active networks of researchers and managers who address critical water-related problems and share information and technologies that benefit colleagues, leaders, and policymakers. For more information: wri.cals.cornell.edu

4. Today, there are over 58,900 community water systems in the United States processing more than 34 billion gallons per day. The average residence in the United States uses 107,000 gallons of water a year. The New York State Health Department is now in the process of developing a Source Water Assessment Report for every surface drinking water source in the state, and a summary, with Cornell-related water sources, will be provided in next year’s Annual Drinking Water Quality Report.


East Hill Notes are published the second and fourth Mondays of each month in Tompkins Weekly. Gary Stewart is associate vice president in Cornell’s Office of Community Relations.


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