Neversink ReservoirLAB Begins!


“Mother Duck” single file turn. Neversink Reservoir paddling. Photo by Diane Galusha, Catskill Watershed Corporation.

HarborLAB’s new program for FREE watershed education is afloat! HarborLAB is the only organization with boat fleets to explore both our watershed and estuary — from the highlands to the harbor, or source to the sewer!

A group of 30 kids and teens from Hour Children brought ReservoirLAB (LAB stands for “Learning Adventure Boating”) to life last week, canoeing and kayaking the Neversink Reservoir  in the beautiful Catskill Mountains. The participants — aged 5-13 years old — also enjoyed a short hike through the reservoir’s surrounding forest. The purpose of ReservoirLAB, which begins with an orientation lecture and activities before the visit,  is to help young people learn about the natural and engineering wonders behind our city’s drinking water system.

Groups can come for day trips or camp for very reasonable rates at nearby private grounds run by local families.

If you’d like us to share this wonderful experience with your NYC school or youth group (especially but not exclusively high school aged), please write to us at with the subject line, “Neversink Visit.” If you’d like to volunteer for this program (whether you live in NYC or the Catskills), please write to us at with the subject “Neversink Volunteering.” If you’d like to sponsor or donate to ReservoirLAB, please write to us at with the subject line Neversink Support.” THANKS!

ReservoirLAB is made possible by grants and guidance from Catskill Watershed Corporation, and permission and educational training provided by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. We’re also grateful to Frost Valley YMCA for storing our gear while we worked with our partners to meet the safety, educational training, and logistical requirements of this pioneering program. This is the first FREE paddling program for youth education on a NYC reservoir.

HarborLAB Founder Erik Baard conceived of a public paddling program on NYC’s reservoirs in 2011 while bicycling through the Catskills to promote eco-tourism for the state government’s I NY campaign, which officially designated him “the greenest New Yorker.”

HarborLAB volunteers are the backbone of ReservoirLAB and have generously given their time and energy to earn Red Cross certifications in adult and pediatric First Aid, CPR, AED, and Basic Water Rescue, as well as NYCDEP watershed education training given by Kim Estes-Fradis and Robin Sanchez. Facilities Manager Patricia Erickson allowed HarborLAB to use of her vehicles and property. The long and exhausting inaugural outing was conducted in good spirits by Camping Co-Manager Ray Tan, Executive Director Erik Baard, Diana Szatkowski, and especially Scott Wolpow. We’re also grateful to those partners who personally shared this wonderful day: Catskill Watershed Corporation Communications Director and Education Coordinator Diane Galusha, who helped guide our set up and photographed our program, and NYCDEP Land Supervisor John Green, who conducted the forest walks.


NYCDEP Land Supervisor John Green teaches Hour Children about how forests protect our water. Photo by Ray Tan of HarborLAB.


Neversink Reservoir Fun Facts, by Erik Baard

Maximum depth: 175 feet.

That’s deeper than any point in New York Harbor! If you took the Statue of Liberty off her pedestal and stood her in the reservoir, her torch would still be 25’ under water! Get Lady Liberty a life vest!

Length: 5 miles.

That’s the distance between the World Trade Center and Central Park, but no traffic jams!

Maximum volume: 35 billion gallons.

That can satisfy more than a month of New York City needs! Though NYC is growing, we use less water in recent decades because we’re getting smarter about conservation.

Elevation: 1,440’

That’s nearly as high as the tip of Empire State Building’s spire, making the Neversink the highest Catskill Mountains reservoir! Gravity carries our water downhill to the city with such force that when it arrives it can even go up a few floors without pumping!


Yes, the Neversink Reservoir is an extraordinary place, and beautiful too! But it’s just a small part of an amazing system of 19 reservoirs holding 550 billion gallons of water from which over 9 million people in New York City and neighboring counties use 1.2 billion gallons each day. That’s a lot of water to collect, keep clean, and deliver!

Our reservoirs gather rainwater and melting snow from three areas – called the Catskill, Delaware, and Croton “watersheds” – that total 2,000 square miles. For comparison, New York City covers only 305 square miles. Much of this combined watershed area is green with forests because trees, groundcover plants, and soft and absorbent soil naturally protect our water from fertilizer and pollution that runs off farms, factories, and roads. We mechanically filter very, very little of our water, thanks to forests!

The water you drink can come from up to 125 miles away! About 6,500 miles of huge pipes, deep tunnels, and aqueducts bring our reservoir water to us. That’s nearly ten times longer than all of New York City’s subway lines combined! What an engineering marvel! Even our reservoirs, though they look like lakes, are public works. Generations ago city engineers built dams so that rivers could fill valleys, which are the reservoirs we see today. In some cases people had to leave their towns and farms to make way for water storage for the good of fellow New Yorkers.

The work to maintain this wonder of nature and engineering never ends. Roughly 6,000 NYC Department of Environmental Protection employees test the water to make sure it’s clean and safe, care for the forests that surround our reservoirs, fix and improve the tunnels that carry our water, defend reservoirs against invasive species, and so much more. Let’s think of their work, the help of their many partners like Catskill Watershed Corporation, and especially of nature’s gifts each time we turn the tap to drink or shower!

Come paddling with HarborLAB/ReservoirLAB to learn more!

Please enjoy the gallery below. Photos by Erik Baard and Ray Tan of HarborLAB and Diane Galusha of Catskill Watershed Corporation.








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