30 Sep

NYC H2O Not-for-Profit Spotlight

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NYC H2O is a non-profit organization devoted to educating and inspiring New York’s citizens about its fascinating and extensive water supply system. NYC H2O is best known for its free Water Ecology and Engineering field trips designed for students (grades 2-12) who attend school in underserved areas of the city. Urban students are taken on field trips to reservoirs where they are introduced to their city’s watersheds via custom made maps that allow them to connect their neighborhood with its upstate water source. In learning this, students begin to understand the importance of conservation and resilience as it relates to water supply and climate change.

NYC H2O was founded in 2009 by Matt Malina and offers field trips, tours, lectures and beach and wetlands clean-up events. The programs offer participants an ecological perspective that fosters a deeper understanding of the water supply system as well as of wetlands. Jonathan Turer, Director of Programs and Operations at NYC H2O, says the most rewarding part of his work with NYC H2O is the joy of “seeing students really start to understand the world around them in terms of how much water we need and how we get the water.” He went on to say, through that appreciation they can “be more ecological- or conservation- minded.” Today, NYC H2O has completed over 248 educational trips and reached over 10,000 public school students.

In addition to field trips, NYC H2O has focused on engaging community and citywide support for preserving the now decommissioned Ridgewood Reservoir located in Highland Park, Queens. Field trips to the Reservoir, for adults and students alike, highlight the crucial importance of Brooklyn’s 19th century water system to its early development. The historic Ridgewood Reservoir–which sits on the border with Brooklyn–has three basins, each of which has evolved so as to become its own case study in ecological succession. Since the area has been threatened by the City’s plans to destroy the basins, NYC H2O has advocated to save the Reservoir whose valuable historic infrastructure now offers a habitat where ecological activity remains undisturbed. The Reservoir is a unique cultural as well as ecological asset. Turer honors the Reservoir as an important site that “we should maintain as the special place that it has evolved into.” One of NYC H2O’s current projects is getting the Reservoir listed on the National and State Register of Historic Sites so that its basins and wetlands areas may be fully protected. Another is to improve community access to the Reservoir which requires, among other things, improving pedestrian safety.

In addition to educating students throughout New York City, NYC H2O works closely with engineers, city planners, educators and geographers to provide current, topical information for programs and events. Access to this extensive network of professionals allows NYC H2O to reach a broader public audience with whom to share the importance of NYC’s urban water systems and ecology.

Written by Grace Muset.