Press Release

Contact: Martie Gailes
845-254-5354

Catskill Water Discovery Center to Receive $1 Million in Startup Funding from CWC

April 25, 2007 - Arkville, New York - The Catskill Water Discovery Center changed from a visionary concept into a working reality with the award of $1 million in launch funding from the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC). At its April 24th board meeting, the CWC unanimously approved the grant. The money will be used for developing exhibit concepts and architectural plans plus initial promotional and marketing support programs; also for funding the staffing and administration required to raise $25 million the estimated cost of building this public exhibit and museum institution and funding first-year operations.

Commenting on the award, Alan Rosa, Executive Director of the CWC, said, "We see this grant as an investment in the future of the region, our country and, for that matter, the world. It will get a critically important project off the ground. It will also come back to benefit our regional economy many times over."

Over three years of planning have gone into the development of the vision behind the Water Discovery Center. According to Gary Gailes, President of the Center's Board of Trustees, "Our mission is to raise public awareness of a problem that may be every bit as critical in the 21st century as oil was in the 20th century, and maybe even more so. The value of the Center is that almost nothing will happen in terms of timely and aggressive government action without awareness and support from the grass roots level."

The Catskill Water Discovery Center will educate and inform visitors with graphic exhibitions that dramatize and explain the problem and what can be done about it with technology, an informed populace and constructive public policies; also, how citizens can get involved to become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Sited on 44 acres of rolling farmland on the banks of the East Branch of the Delaware River, the Water Discovery Center will house five exhibit halls, classrooms, teleconferencing facilities, a restaurant and gift center, an outdoor amphitheater, guided wetland tours, and access by both private automobile and a planned station stop on the tourist Delaware & Ulster Railroad. Special field trip and classroom programs will be offered to attract secondary school teachers and their students.

The five exhibit halls will be devoted to

  • water as a resource
  • worldwide threats
  • effective management of water resources
  • technology, innovation and best-practices
  • conservation and protection

The exhibit hall devoted to water management will feature major exhibits on the Catskill Watershed System which supplies New York City with 90% of its fresh water. These exhibits will dramatize the Catskill reservoirs and distribution system, management and oversight, and the original construction of this extraordinary system whose size, scope and engineering challenge have been compared to the building of the Panama Canal.

Growing water shortages threaten world stability
There is only so much fresh water in the world and nearly all of it is allocated today for agricultural irrigation, industrial, and municipal uses. So a crisis in water shortages is looming on the near horizon as the world's population grows from 6.4 billion now to a predicted 9.4 billion or more by 2050.

This could soon turn into catastrophe if we don't do something about it and soon. Where will we get the water to grow the food for a rapidly expanding population as the aquifers dry up and pollution continues? Thousands of hamlets in China's northern wheat belt have already been abandoned because of water shortages. In the high plains of our Midwest, aquifers are down by as much as 100 feet and "water wars" have become more and more widespread and no longer just a problem in the far West. Today, rivers like the Colorado, the Yellow, the Nile, the Ganges, and the Indus are almost entirely used up on the way to the sea and by that point, barely a trickle.

Many positive implications for the region
Locating the Water Discovery Center in Arkville, New York in the very heart of the Catskill Watershed -- is particularly appropriate. This watershed system has a long-standing track record of feeding New York City over a billion gallons a day of some of the cleanest, best-tasting water available anywhere. It can thus serve as a role model to the world for effective watershed management. The Center also has the advantage of lying within a day-trip from the New York City metro area - one of the largest in the United States producing a constant flow of visitors plus high visibility among national as well as regional opinion leaders.

In the largest sense, the Water Discovery Center will also serve as a bridge between competing constituencies. One conflict concerns rural interests versus urban needs. Here, the so-called Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), forged in 1997, has set an example of accommodation between New York City and the towns and villages in and near the watershed. Another concerns economic development versus the environmental restrictions that are needed to protect the watershed from pollution. Here again, the MOA spells out ground rules so that competing interests can exist harmoniously, side by side.

In addition to its value in terms of public policy, the Center, as currently planned, will become a much needed boon to the financial health of the area, feeding an estimated $11 million dollars yearly into the regional economy from tourists and visitors.

The Water Discovery Center is incorporated as a not-for-profit institution, with headquarters in Highmount, New York. Its governance operates through a 17-member Board of Trustees, chaired by Dr. Keith Porter, Executive Director of the New York State Water Resource Institute. Literature and more information are available by calling Martie Gailes, Secretary of the Board of Trustees, at 845-254-5354, or by visiting the Center's website at www.waterdiscoverycenter.org.

The Catskill Watershed Corporation is a non-profit, local development corporation established by the 1997 New York City Watershed Memorandum of Agreement. The CWC is based in Margaretville. It runs several environmental protection, economic development and education programs in New York City's West of Hudson (WOH) Catskill/Delaware Watershed. These programs are intended to protect the quality of the water which sustains nine million residents of New York City and its suburbs while at the same time preserving and strengthening the rural communities within the five-county WOH Watershed

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