A Night for Snow Pillows

Water Wonk Wednesdays

A weekly column on water news, tips, and innovations.

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Snow Pillow monitoring station. Photo by NYCDEP 

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SNOTEL with snow pillows. Image by USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service

The term “snow pillow” evokes a peaceful, muffling moonlit whiteness spreading a lull across the countryside. For New Yorkers, however, it’s a critical piece of hardware.

Much of the billion gallons of water used daily by nine million residents of NYC and surrounding counties arrives as snow. The white caps of the old, rounded Catskill Mountains nestling the Neversink Reservoir are a reserve bank that melts to meet our needs in warmer months. Snow melt can also swell rivers, so anticipating flood risks is very important to towns an farms. With so many lives affected by snow, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with City University of New York and National Weather Service, is constantly looking for better ways to measure it.

At the end of the last decade NYCDEP began using “snow pillows,” essentially scales that weigh snow in remote locations and transmit data wirelessly in near real-time. The technology (first developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Alaska) is often integrated into remote sensor stations in rougher terrains out west. The NYCDEP deployed its first snow pillow at the Schoharie Reservoir in 2008, and later near reservoirs in Cannonsville, Pepacton, and Neversink. HarborLAB operates a canoeing and kayaking program at the Neversink for NYC youth groups and public school students to learn about their drinking water sources.

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Inner workings of the NYCDEP’s latest generation snow pillow. Photo by NYCDEP. 

The NYCDEP still uses aerial surveys and good old fashioned field work to measure snowpack, but the agency plans to more than double its constellation of snow pillows to 35 stations in coming years. Another sensor used is the Gmon, which helps researchers estimate snowpack by measuring the absorption of naturally occurring radiation. Future snow data collection might increasingly rely on satellites.

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For more about NYCDEP’s work to measure snowpack, please view this PowerPoint presentation by James H. Porter, PhD, Chief of Water Systems Operations at NYCDEP:

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Neversink Reservoir: FREE Kayaking and Hiking Permits!

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Get your free five-year access permit to paddle and hike our reservoir system!

Link here:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/recreation/access.shtml

If you want to volunteer for HarborLAB’s Watershed Wonder Tours (aka ReservoirLAB), or even just participate, you’ll need this permit. Our watershed programs at the Neversink Reservoir begin Memorial Day, but we’d like volunteers, and potential partners and participants, to square this paperwork away early.

It’s quick and easy! Learn more from the full NYC Department of Environmental Protection Neversink Reservoir brochure and the watershed boating website. Watershed Wonder Tours are made possible by NYCDEP permission and a grant from the Catskill Watershed Corporation.

After completing the form, please email edu@harborlab.org with the subject line “Watershed,” telling us that you’ve applied for your permit and how you’d like to help. We also have a Facebook event for the permits. We’ll have educational partnerships fostered by the NYCDEP and perhaps eventually community “walk-up” days with educational and activity booths promoting other water ecology causes.

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Join a HarborLAB Google Group!

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Maybe you have that missing piece of the puzzle to make a HarborLAB program click together! HarborLAB has peer-to-peer email list Google Groups to achieve our goals in Education, Fleet and Infrastructure, Funding, Outreach and Communications, and Safety and Public Events. We encourage volunteers and prospective volunteers to join groups that match their interests, either as active participants or to monitor and stay informed. Feel free to receive updates in digest form, but we hope to keep traffic low and purposeful.

Click on the hyperlinked group names below to sign up!

Education:

Sharing information and ideas to grow and improve HarborLAB’s educational mission and programs in the harbor and watershed (Neversink Reservoir). Share ideas for curricular integration and public programming, educational grants, and other means of serving educators. Join >

Fleet and Infrastructure:

Help build, select, and maintain HarborLAB’s boat fleet, gear stocks, dock, and shoreline infrastructure. Join >

Funding:

Share tips, plans, and ideas for funding HarborLAB, and keeping us on budget. This is the email list for you if you’re interested in seeking sponsors and applying for grants, producing fundraising parties and events, and maintaining fiscal transparency and accountability. Join >

Outreach and Communications:

Help grow HarborLAB through outreach to potential and existing volunteers, community and nonprofit partners, government agencies, and media. We’ll create new website features, a newsletter, postcards, literature, and other ways of building community. Join >

Safety and Public Events:

Help plan and organize HarborLAB’s public events and maintain safety (best practices, equipment, training) across programs. Join >

Free Reservoir Access Permit!

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Photo by Watershed Post (http://www.watershedpost.com/).

Get your free five-year access permit (
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/recreation/access.shtml) to paddle and hike our NYC reservoir system!

If you want to volunteer for HarborLAB’s Watershed Wonder Tours (aka ReservoirLAB), or even just participate, you’ll need this permit. Our watershed programs at the Neversink Reservoir begin Memorial Day, but we’d like volunteers to square this paperwork away early.

It’s quick and easy!

Please go to this link:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/recreation/access.shtml

And here’s our Facebook “event” promoting sign permit applications:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1405827916313561/

After completing the form, please email edu@harborlab.org with the subject line “Watershed,” telling us that you’ve applied for your permit and how you’d like to help. We’ll have both educational partnerships fostered by the NYC DEP and community “walk-up” days with educational and activity booths promoting other water ecology causes.

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Photo by Google Maps/Google Earth.

Watershed Wonder Tours in the News

 

Neversink Reservoir. Catskill Watershed Corp.

A great write up on HarborLAB’s coming “Watershed Wonder Tours,” published
by DNAinfo:

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130711/long-island-city/city-kids-go-straight-source-on-catskills-watershed-tours

THE TRANSPORTATION GRANT APPLICATION IS DUE JULY 15:

http://www.nycwatershed.org/pdfs/BusTourRFP_000.pdf

The NYC DEP recommends that educators, paddling and ecological
organizations, and community groups focus programs on learning about how
forests clean and protect our water when applying for this grant. Keep in
mind that you can also use this grant to visit other reservoirs, though
Neversink is the only one with a free public fleet. We’re dipping a paddle
in the water in 2013 and really splashing down in 2014. One LIC has written
to that they’ve already applied, and another is interested, but this is for
all of NYC (and our country cousins)!  🙂

Neversink Reservoir. Catskill Watershed Corporation.