New York City Water Tunnel No. 3

New York City Water Tunnel No. 3

New York City Water Tunnel No. 3 is the largest capital construction project in New York state's history and among the most complex engineering projects in the world today. It is being constructed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and is intended to provide the City with a critical third connection to its Upstate New York water supply system. The tunnel will eventually be more than 60 miles (97 km) long and is expected to cost a total of 6 billion dollars. Construction on the tunnel began in 1970 and will not be completed until at least 2020.


Stage One

Planning for the tunnel began in the 1950s when it was realized that a third tunnel would be needed to reduce reliance on existing tunnels and allow them to be taken offline for necessary repair and maintenance work. Phase 1 was begun in 1970, largely completed in the 1980s and put into service in 1998[1]. This first portion of Tunnel No. 3 was tunneled through bedrock between 250 feet (76 m) to 800 feet (240 m) underground. It runs for 13 miles (21 km) and begins at Hillview Reservoir in Yonkers, New York, extending across Central Park to Fifth Avenue and 78th Street and then stretches eastward under the East River and Roosevelt Island into Astoria, Queens. The concrete-lined tunnel is 24 feet (7.3 m) in diameter and is subsequently reduced to 20 feet (6.1 m) in diameter. Internal water pressure causes the water to rise from the tunnel through 14 supply shafts that will supply the existing distribution system.

Dr. Gareth M. Evans on SPG Media Limited's writes:

Three of the four unique subsurface valve chambers have already been built to allow the connection of future stages of the tunnel without removing the water or taking any other stage of the tunnel out of service. The three valve chambers are located in the Bronx at Van Cortlandt Park (Shaft 2B), Manhattan at Central Park (Shaft 13B) and Roosevelt Island (Shaft 15B). Each valve chamber contains a series of 96-inch (2.4 m) diameter conduits with valves and flow meters to direct, control and measure the flow of water in sections of the tunnel. Stage 2 will provide water to the lower west side of Manhattan and sections of Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island. More importantly, Stages 1 and 2 will provide bypass capability of City Tunnels No. 1 or 2, which is essential to maintaining the entire water supply system and avoiding problems. Stages 1 and 2 are solely devoted to improving the distribution capability of the system and will not provide any additional supply of water.

Stage Two

The Brooklyn and Queens section has sections being built at the same time. The five-and-a-half mile Brooklyn section begins in Red Hook, Brooklyn and runs through the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Park Slope, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick to Maspeth, Queens. The Brooklyn section will connect with the Richmond Tunnel now providing water to Staten Island. From Maspeth, the Queens section will run five miles (8 km) through the Queens communities of Woodside and Astoria. The Brooklyn section will be 16 feet (4.9 m) in diameter, and the Queens section will be 20 feet (6.1 m) in diameter.

The Manhattan section will be 10 feet (3.0 m) in diameter and run for 9 miles (14 km). It will begin at the Stage 1 valve chamber in Central Park and run south along the west side of Manhattan and curve around the southern end of the island and come partially up the Lower East Side. A spur of the Manhattan tunnel begins on the west side at approximately 34th Street, goes to the east side and then turns north under Second Avenue to about 59th Street. This section of the tunnel was completed in 2008, construction on riser shafts, electrical and piping is expected to be completed in 2013[2].

Stage Three

What used to be called Stage 3 is now being referred to as a separate project, the "Kensico-City Tunnel." It will be 24 feet (7.3 m) in diameter, running from the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester to the Van Cortland Valve Chamber complex in the Bronx.

Stage Four

Is a proposed and funded tunnel that starts at the Hillview Reservoir and passes through eastern Bronx and then through Queens where it will eventually meet the stage 2 section of city tunnel no. 3.

Valve chambers

The largest of the valve chambers is the Van Cortlandt Park complex. It is built 250 feet (76 m) below the park surface. When completed it will control the flow of water from the Catskill and Delaware systems. These systems provide 90% of the city's current drinking water. The Van Cortlandt Park Valve Chamber is 620 feet (190 m) long, and 43 feet (13 m) wide and 41 feet (12 m) high. The complex has nine vertical shafts; and two manifolds. Each manifold is 560 feet (170 m) long and 24 feet (7.3 m) in diameter.


Since 1970, when construction on the tunnel began, 24 people have died in construction-related accidents. This includes 23 workers and one 12-year-old boy who died in an after-hours accident at a construction site in the Bronx.


  • New York City Water Tunnel No. 1 completed 1917
  • New York City Water Tunnel No. 2 completed 1936
  • New York City Water Tunnel No. 3 began 1970, estimated completion in 2020

Popular culture

  • The CSI: NY episode "A Man a Mile" deals with the death of a sandhog during construction of Water Tunnel No. 3.
  • In Spider Robinson's novel Night of Power, Tunnel No. 3 is depicted as an abandoned project, taken over as the secret headquarters for a revolutionary movement.

See also

External links and references

  1. ^ NYC press release Thursday, August 13, 1998:MAYOR GIULIANI INAUGURATES CITY WATER TUNNEL NO. 3
  2. ^ New York City 2008 Drinking Water Supply and Quality Report, page 6

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