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Mayor John Cesar of Brewster, New York cuts the ribbon.  

Celebration of the
Reversal of the Directional Flow
of the New Croton Aqueduct

Peter Walsh (USA)

Chosen by curator Rachel Gugelberger
to be part of The Brewster Project, 2001
an arts festival organized by
Regine Basha, Omar Lopez-Chahoud and Christopher Ho
with Richard Ruchella
Brewster, New York,
July 27-29, 2001

Goto Photo Gallery>>

Update 2014:

Croton Art at Proteus Gowanus
(Installation view at Proteus Gowanus. Photo by Hope Ginsburg)

*     "Celebration of the Reversal of the Flow of the New Croton Aqueduct" included in the exhibition Thirst at the Proteus Gowanus gallery in Brooklyn, NY, March 22-April 19, 2014. Artist Peter Walsh participated in "ThirstLab Workshop #2: Ripple Effects: The Politics of Fresh Water Flows," on Sunday, March 30, 3-5pm at Proteus in a presentation and discussion with Alex Prud’homme (Author of Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the 21st Century), Michael Cirino (culinary artist and founder of A Razor A Shiny Knife), singer Carter Scott and pianst Leesa Dahl.

Update 2006:

*     Brewster’s Southeast Museum has created a new exhibition entitled Water for the City that documents the Croton Reservoir System. The show opens in Brewster, Thursday, May 4, 2006 at 7pm. *


Croton Water Celebration 2001 (Main Street, Brewster) - "Mayor John Cesar of Brewster, New York cuts the ribbon to inaugurate the new public works project returning Croton Watershed water to Brewster by importing it from New York City," photo courtesy of Rachel Gugelberger.

Croton Water Celebration 1842

Croton Water Celebration 1842 (City Hall Park, Manhattan) - "The Croton Ode," Anonymous, Lithograph, cover of sheet music, courtesy of The I.N. Phelps Stokes Collection, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Arts, Prints and Photographs, New York Public Library


    On the weekend of July 27-29, 2001 in Brewster, New York, artist Peter Walsh reversed the flow of New York City's drinking water, creating an imaginary public works project that modeled itself on grass roots activism and included a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Brewster's 83 year old Mayor, John Cesar.

    Throughout the hot summer weekend, Mr. Walsh thanked the people of the Village of Brewster and the Township of Southeast, and also visitors to the Brewster Project arts festival, by serving glasses of authentic ice-cold Croton Watershed water, imported directly from the heart of New York City. Local officials and community members were on hand to cut the ribbon, taste the returning water and kick off a new Croton Water Celebration that mirrored a similar celebration in Manhattan over 150 years earlier. (photo gallery)

    The project successfully connected with the Putnam County community's concerns over the political and financial control of area resources and was prominently featured in three different local newspapers. The project was chosen by curator Rachel Gugelberger to be part of the first Brewster Project, an arts festival organized by Regine Basha, Omar Lopez-Chahoud and Christopher Ho with Brewster resident Richard Ruchella. During the festival, Brewster hosted over 30 contemporary artists from NewYork City who were invited by ten curators to create site-specific public projects that reflected on Brewster's history, locale, architecture and specific cultural make-up.

Some Background Information About
Celebration of the Reversal of the Directional Flow of the New Croton Aqueduct

View of a Putnam County valley before being flooded.  


    The celebration was intended as both a “thank you” to the citizens of Putnam County, Southeast Township, and the Village of Brewster for over 150 years worth of stewardship of New York City’s water supply and a re-commitment to clean water for the city and economic health for the village and its community.

    Why make the Aqueduct flow backwards? When I was invited to create an artwork for the Brewster Project I began with the idea of Justice: Political Justice and Economic Justice. Water flows downhill; so does money, so does power, so do people in fact. As an individual, I arrived in New York City in 1999 following exactly that kind of flow and looking for the kind of opportunities that that city has - and I might not have been in a position to produce this public project if I hadn’t.

    Here are some images that were in my mind as I worked on the Water Reversal Project. Imagine an apple falling up from the ground and re-attaching to the tree that created it. Imagine a river stopping its rush down a mountain towards the ocean and instead, suddenly, flowing back into the hills from which it came.

    Although no single event can change the structural economic problems connected to particular places, I know that there was an awareness that the Brewster Project might be able to effect the local area in Putnam County. Over thirty artists and ten curators came up from New York to Brewster to create artworks. There were two other festivals that followed in 2002 and 2003. I hope that this has been the beginning of a flow of opportunity in this new direction.


    New York City's Drinking Water Supply is a remarkable engineering system of 19 reservoirs and lakes that pumps over 1.5 billion gallons of fresh water into the city each day (see map to the left). Hundreds of Southeast and Brewster area homes, businesses and farms were flooded by the construction of the system and now lie beneath local reservoirs. By the 1880s, between those flooded properties and other restrictions on industry and development enforced by the city of New York for watershed protection, the area's population and economic prospects had gone into decline.

    With the Watershed Protection Agreement of 1997, area leaders, New York City and State Officials, and Environmental groups have negotiated a balanced approach towards responsible development with a commitment to clean water.


"A view of a Putnam County valley before being flooded to make way for additional reservoirs to supply New York City's water. The river to the left is the east branch of the Croton River, the area would become the Diverting Reservoir. Entire villages and much of the most fertile farm land were lost, circa 1904." Courtesy of the Southeast Museum.

Map of the East of Hudson WatershedsMap of the East of Hudson WatershedsMap of the East of Hudson Watersheds

Map of the East of Hudson Watersheds including the Croton Watershed. Courtesy of the New York City Department of Enviromental Protection.

Selected Articles Written About
Celebration of the Reversal of the Directional Flow of the New Croton Aqueduct

1) "Shifting Sites: The Brewster Project and the Plight of Place,"  Nuit Banai, PAJ 72: Performing Arts Journal, September, 2002, image and text, pp. 56-6.

2) “Brewster Project brings 30 NYC artists into the community” Eric Gross, Putnam County Courier, August 2, 2001, B7.

3) “Show celebrates Brewster’s history, culture” Susan Elan, The Journal News, B1.

4) “Brewster Project to Celebrate Water Weekend” The News-Times, A4.

5) “Brewster Hosts Water Celebration” Eric Gross,Putnam County Courier, July 26, 2001, A1.

Photo Gallery
Go to Photo Gallery

Gallery of Images from Celebration of the Reversal of the
Directional Flow of the New Croton Aqueduct


     My thanks go out first and foremost to all the celebration participants for having fun and being patient while I played an elaborate prank on their behalf. The project would never have happened without curator Rachel Gugelberger, who generously invited me to participate not knowing where my piece might lead. The New York City organizers of the festival, Regine Basha, Omar Lopez-Chahoud, and Christopher Ho were wonderful as were their Brewster counterparts, resident Richard Ruchella and Samantha Ligon & Amy Campanaro of the Southeast Museum. Also helpful in Brewster were activist Edie Keasbey and Patricia Perez with the Community Affairs Office in Putnam County. As I was doing research, I was given great help by Marc Yaggi at Pace University's Environmental Litigation Clinic and by Jeff Ryan, Beth Gelber and Abdul Jabar with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. As always, Deidre Hoguet was an inspiration and a steadfast supportor and, lest I forget, provided the engine that ran the Reversal Project - her car.

    And finally, a special thanks to Village of Brewster Mayor John Cesar, who gave several extraordinary speeches on behalf of Brewster, its water, and the Reversal Project. He taught me the true nature of public performance by showing me how it is done.

All Content Peter Walsh 2006
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