What is Catskill Waters?

Portia, tintype print by Craig Barber

Stewardship of New York City Water

Deep in the heart of the Catskill mountains, the sweet drinking water for 8.5 million people begins its journey to New York City. Catskill Waters is a portal to the community where this water’s first stewardship takes place. It offers a tender look at the joys, sorrows, passions, and anxieties of people of all beliefs and backgrounds, united by one common thread—their love for the land.

We begin by listening, recording, collecting, and sharing stories. Then a handful of storytellers will be selected and matched with artists. The storyteller/artist pairs will spend time getting to know each other, collaborating on the creation of artworks over several months, embodying the stories of the stewardship, both of the land and of the collaborative process. The completed works will journey down south, along with rich documentation and the trove of stories, making stops in the Hudson Valley and beyond, arriving in New York City for the final exhibition.

Changing Landscape—of Nature and Human

The increasingly dramatic weather is not the only change impacting the Catskills. Changes in our human landscape are also picking up a pace in recent years. Catskill Waters navigates through this delicate terrain, creating a supportive platform for people to share their thoughts and knowledge. At a time when our world seems to be getting further divided, Catskill Waters bridges this divide by bringing our focus down to the earth with questions spanning a wide range of topics. How does one build good soil? How fast do beavers build their dams? How can you be sure ice is thick enough to skate on? What is it like to  hike a mountain in your backyard? How challenging is it to make a living? How do full-timers and weekenders feel about each other? How does it feel not to have high-speed internet?

Catskill Waters is a snapshot of America—rapidly changing but remaining constant, and feeling out the balance in between, trying best to adapt while protecting what is sacred.

Working like Water

Catskill Waters is a collaboration among many players—a governmental agency, non-profits, artists, and citizens—each shaping and affecting the project. Our organizing principle is to stay fluid and responsive to the needs and wants of the community while being committed to the quality and integrity of our shared experience. Like water, we flow through our land, reflecting what’s around us, and transforming the landscape if ever so incrementally.

There are many ways to participate in Catskill Waters: share your story, come to our events, join our network, or become a sponsor.


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Catskill Waters is made possible with funds from Rondout Neversink Stream Program, a project of Sullivan County Soil & Water Conservation District funded by New York City Department of Environmental Protection.