Nineteen Reservoirs

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By the author of Low Life, the now-classic history of NYC’s outlaw underbelly—a meticulously researched, evocatively illustrated, profoundly meditative account of the city’s upstate reservoirs

Without the upstate reservoir system that brings fresh water to New York City, the city would have faded into insignificance. But this engineering triumph had a cost: From 1907 to 1967, twenty-six upstate villages, farms, forests, and other natural areas were bought for a fraction of their value, demolished, then submerged to create the Catskills and Delaware watershed systems.

Compelled to understand “the air of permanent mourning” in their vicinity, Luc Sante marshals the same gifts that made Low Life a now-classic of NYC history: a meticulously detailed accounting of their creation, a trove of rarely seen visual history, and a master of literary nonfiction’s sensibility for the essential paradox at the heart of this story: the triumph NYC’s nineteen-reservoir system represents, and the tragedy of its creation.