A long-planned temporary shutdown of a leaky aqueduct that supplies about half of New York City’s drinking water is being postponed by a year, giving officials more time to prepare for the months-long closure.
The city has been working for nine years on a $1 billion bypass tunnel far under the Hudson River in Newburgh — about 45 miles north of New York City — to replace a badly leaking section of the Delaware Aqueduct. The aqueduct must be shut down for five to eight months to connect the bypass tunnel, increasing the dependency on other water sources.
The shutdown was planned for this fall.
But the city’s Environment Department said Thursday it wanted more time to ensure its system can reliably provide enough water from other sources. It also plans to provide additional time for several water supply projects in upstate New York, where many communities depend on the municipal system.
“We want to make sure everything is perfect and ready to go,” said Paul Rush, deputy commissioner for the city’s Environmental Protection Agency.
The 85-mile (137-kilometer) long aqueduct is a crucial part of a vast water supply system that includes 19 reservoirs, three lakes, and connecting tunnels that is sometimes cited as an engineering feat as impressive as the aqueducts of ancient Rome.
Constructed primarily during World War II, the Delaware Aqueduct carries about 600 million gallons a day solely by gravity from four reservoirs in the Catskill Mountain region to a holding tank just north of the city.
The Environment Department has been working for years to ensure that the aqueduct shutdown is not noticed by customers when they turn on their faucets. The city intends to rely more heavily on water from the supplemental Catskill Aqueduct and reservoirs in suburban Westchester County. The city has also significantly reduced its water use through conservation efforts.
Rush said the extra time will give the city time to test two pumping stations north of the city. Also, the Croton filtration plant in the Bronx will be connected to a third city water supply tunnel, and engineers want to test the performance of the new configuration.
The extra year will ensure that local water infrastructure projects related to the shutdown can be completed in the City of Newburgh, Wawarsing and Bedford Falls.
The agency wants to start the shutdown in the fall after the peak demand months of the summer are over.