The Catskill Water Futures

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Regional watersheds and agricultural land use

The Catskill Water Futures project was developed by the Urban Design Lab (UDL) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and a joint research seminar at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) in collaboration with several local stakeholder groups.

The research examines change agents and change scenarios within the Catskill region watersheds. Although focused on a relatively small geographic area, the findings can be seen as important to the entire Western Catskill regional context. Primary considerations include the sustainability of a revival in agriculture production, and the impacts of imminent natural gas extraction within the Marcellus Shale.  As the conflict between energy and water resources continues to grow, the connections between this year’s study and previous UDL studies in the region have merged, in that water is the fundamental elixir for all development options. Involved are critical choices, however, as water is not an invincible development partner. Throughout history and everywhere in the world, an abundance of water has proven to be fragile and hardly eternal. The Western Catskills are at a crossroads in its development. Water is the region’s most abundant natural resource, raising the fundamental question of how water can be repurposed and preserved in the next stage of development.

Sponsors: the Open Space Institute, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Watershed Agricultural Council, the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition, and the Norcross Foundation.