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Water for Gotham : a history (edition 2000)
Water for Gotham: A History by Gerard T. Koeppel
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0691089760, Paperback)"The chief disadvantage of New York," observed the Swedish botanist Peter Kalm in the mid-18th century, "is the want of good water." The Dutch farmers who settled on Manhattan in the 1600s found the island, which is fronted by a salty inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, to have only small quantities of surface water. Hampered by the hard rock that underlay the island, subsequent generations of Manhattanites had difficulty sinking wells, and many had to make do with polluted, dangerous sources of drinking water.
In Water for Gotham, Gerard T. Koeppel relates the complex history of how the metropolis came to acquire dependable sources of water for an ever-expanding population. Those sources lay far from the city, but engineering problems were much less difficult to overcome than was the political opposition to this reliance on the world beyond Manhattan Island. Even after a cholera outbreak killed scores of New Yorkers in 1832, some of the city's leading financiers insisted that the old wells would do just fine. Finally, Koeppel writes, through the efforts of DeWitt Clinton and other farsighted civic leaders, New York raised money to build a system of canals and aqueducts leading up the Hudson and Croton river valleys into the water-rich Catskill Mountains, getting the funds for the construction from European banks and private bondholders. Nearly a century later, all five boroughs were finally well served by pipes that brought in nearly 400 million gallons of fresh water a day--scarcely a third of the present metropolis's demands.
Water for Gotham is, well, dry at times, but it does a fine job overall of making sense of an overlooked aspect of New York's history. --Gregory McNamee
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:21 -0400)
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