Central New York, Community, Environment, Food

From Watershed to Drinking Water: How the Land Surrounding Skaneateles Lake Affects What Ends Up in Your Cup

Preventing Blue-Green Algae in CNY


By Lileana Pearson SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Skaneateles Lake is our source of unfiltered drinking water, but last year it saw a toxic algae bloom because of runoff from the surrounding watershed. But, what is a watershed, and how is it safe to drink unfiltered water?

Unfiltered is not the same as untreated.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention drinking water is typically treated like this:

  • Drinking water is typically filtered through sand to catch pieces of sediment and other impurities. Skaneatels Lake is clean enough it skips this step
  • The City of Syracuse Water Dept. adds chlorine to disinfect the water
  • Some facilities use UV treatment to kill harmful bacteria as an extra measure
  • Some fluoride is added

What is a watershed?

Shannon Fabiani, the water and ecology specialist at the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Onondaga County office said to think of it like this:

  • If you cupped your hands and poured water over your fingertips a few things would happen.
  • Some water would run down your fingers, simulating streams and rivers
  • Some water would run between your hands and through, simulating ground water
  • Some water would absorb into your skin, just as water absorbs into soil
  • But most would end up in the palm, acting as the lake
  • A water shed is where all water drains to a common space.

To learn more about toxic blue-green algae visit the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Onondaga County office.