“Reservoir: Nature, Culture, Infrastructure” Expanded into a Book

Image of Nineteen Reservoirs book cover and author Lucy Sante.

We are pleased to share the news that Lucy Sante has expanded her Places series, “Reservoir: Nature, Culture, Infrastructure,” into a book.

Nineteen Reservoirs: On the Creation and the Promise of Water for New York City, has just been published by The Experiment, an independent press based in New York. The new book incorporates a group of four articles — “An Account of Human Costs”; “An Enduring Source of Drinking Water”; “An Air of Permanent Mourning”; “‘As if they had always been there’” — published on Places in November 2020, and made possible by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Both the series and the book feature original photographs by Tim Davis.

Sante describes the Places project as having enabled her to realize “a long-warehoused idea” of writing about the Catskill reservoirs. “Place has always been of major importance to me, and working with the journal was a dream,” Sante adds. “Frances Richard is one of the best, most understanding, and most scrupulous editors I’ve ever worked with, and she and Places’ editorial team let me run riot with the pictures.”

An ambitious work of lyric journalism, the “Reservoir” series allowed Sante, an indispensable chronicler of New York City, to turn her formidable powers on an extraordinary feat of infrastructural engineering, the system that brings water from upstate to the metropolis. Now more than 100 years old and still evolving, New York’s reservoirs exemplify the social compact that undergirds ambitious public infrastructures, while the stories of their making emphasize divisions between city and country, wealth and poverty, the potentials and risks inherent in large-scale environmental intervention.