Water Treatment Facility

Innovation isn't something that just happens, it's a process.  In late spring and early summer we focused on step one of the innovation process: investigation.  Throughout step one we met with departments, people, and partners to better understand their work and the city's infrastructure systems. We group these people into three different categories: sponsors, owners, and stakeholders. Sponsors are the department leaders that are accountable to the mayor for successful implementation of i-team initiatives. Owners are responsible for day-to-day implementation and oversight of initiatives. Stakeholders are people, groups, or entities, that may not be directly involved in initiative implementation, but could be affected by i-team initiatives.

In June we visited Syracuse's Water Treatment Facility in Skaneateles. Our time there was both informative and enlightening.  We learned a lot and we're excited to share some of it with you.


Our day began by learning about the history of public water in Syracuse. Mike Lynn, Water Plant Manager, and Rich Abbott, Water Quality Sanitarian, explained how the water system was built, and the components that keep it running today.

Syracuse's water supply comes from Skaneateles Lake. The City currently draws 36-37 million gallons of water per day from the lake.  This is down from the 1970's when the city drew up to 46 million gallons of water per day.

Our water system is unique for a couple reasons. It is gravity fed and it is unfiltered. In a gravity fed water system the water naturally flows to the city. Therefore, pumps are only needed for a few hilly areas throughout Syracuse. The water is unfiltered because Skaneateles Lake is among the cleanest lakes in the world. The New York State Department of Health has given Syracuse a filtration waiver, and in order to maintain this waiver Syracuse must constantly meet strict purity guidelines. Although the water is unfiltered, it does go through a coarse screening process where fluoride is added to promote dental hygiene, and chlorine is added to disinfect the water.


With 60 years of combined experience, Rich and Mike have a deep understanding of the Lake, and work diligently each day to maintain the water's integrity. With over 400 billion gallons of water, reservoirs placed throughout the city, and a watershed system that is dedicated to the Lake's purity (learn more about the Skaneateles Watershed Project here), Syracuse has been blessed with an abundance of water.

In the coming months, we will continue to investigate the systems related to Syracuse's infrastructure. We left the water treatment facility with a new found respect for the Department of Water, and a deeper understanding of water system as a whole. We were flooded with ideas, filled with inspiration and encouraged by our city's diligence. We can't wait to continue this innovation process.