GU4550: The New York City Watershed | R. Defries

Sustainable Development
Undergraduate and Graduate Lecture
One Day Course

The New York City Watershed: From Community Displacement to Collaboration and Climate Adaptation brings students to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York to learn first hand from researchers and practitioners who help supply over ten million New Yorkers with safe and abundant drinking water while also working to build social, economic and environmental capital in the towns and villages located in the watershed surrounding the city’s reservoirs – all against a backdrop of increasing climate-related disruption. The class will learn how New York City and a coalition of upstate watershed communities worked to end nearly a century of mutual resentment, displacement and extraction by entering into the Watershed Agreement of 1997, which has become a widely renowned model for collaborative and equitable water resources management planning in the twenty-five years since its completion. Students will engage with several of the Watershed Agreement’s original negotiators and with the local elected officials, agency staff and non-profit leaders who implement its signature “multi-barrier” strategy for drinking water protection through open space preservation, support for sustainable farming practices and investments in clean water infrastructure and sustainable economic growth in watershed communities. They will also learn how increases in storm intensity and warming driven by climate change threaten to upset the delicate balance between New York City’s need for safe drinking water and the socio-economic interests of upstate watershed communities. Upon completion of the course, students will better understand the challenges involved in creating and implementing collaborative, multi-stakeholder plans for water resource management and host community benefits in today’s increasingly climate-disrupted world. 

Link to Vergil
Note: only courses offered during the two previous semesters have active Vergil links. 

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