By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – July 12, 2016 – Comment

The New York style bagel. Americans consume about 3 billion of them every year, with the average person downing 11 annually. Of all the city’s signature foods, the bagel stands out as one of New York’s most iconic. New York style bagel shops continue to pop up everywhere, but they don’t all hold the same gravity due to their locations.

So, with what appears to be a booming economy for the New York Bagel business, what could I possibly mean in referring to the “gravity of the NY bagel situation?” Of course, me being me, I’m talking about the water! More specifically, I’m talking about the force of gravity that delivers the differentiating factor that sets NY bagels apart from all the rest – that is, the water.

Like any good bagel baker or chef will tell you – the quality you put in determines the quality you get out! That is, if you want to serve the best food, you have to use the best ingredients and the most pristine utensils. In New York City, this holds true for bagels, and, more importantly for our discussion, for its system of delivering 900 million gallons of water to businesses and residences every day.

For the country’s largest municipal water supplier, quality results start with protecting the source of its water, namely the lands surrounding all the lakes, streams, and other sources that feed into the Catskill/Delaware Watershed, which supplies 90 percent of the municipal water. While this alone cannot assure top-quality water, it gives the city’s water supply a great running start – facilitating other steps along the way like those that we take, disinfection to eliminate harmful microbes, and tests for any other harmful elements. Also along the process, the City, like the rest of us in the water industry, is continuously keeping its “utensils” up to snuff – investing in infrastructure replacement and repair to prevent costly leaks as well as other possible sources of contamination.

From the source 125 miles away in the Catskills to its final “resting place” where it is tapped for distribution to buildings and homes, New York City’s water is delivered completely by the force of gravity alone, and can take anywhere from 12 weeks to a year to make its journey (fortunately your bagel shop can serve up your favorites in 60 seconds or less!).  The system is an engineering marvel – from the century old Catskill Aqueduct, which plunges 1,100 feet underneath the Hudson River – to the series of deep tunnels that deliver water into the city, New York’s municipal water delivery truly is a fascinating process.  

As for how all this allows New York ability to build a better bagel – well, sources tell me the sole secret ingredient to a great-tasting bagel is the water. And in New York, that water comes from mountains containing low amounts of limestone… resulting in water with low-levels of calcium… resulting in water with a slightly different taste than anywhere else. So before you make your next schmear of cream cheese, take a bite of your New York bagel “au naturel” and taste the result for yourself.