Below the surface of New York City lurks an immense grid of pipes designed to carry water in various states of grossness. They bring us water for drinking, washing our clothes, and putting out fires. This same water carries away our dirt, our soapy water, and our poo – the poo of eight million New Yorkers. Where does the water go? 

A group of NYC high school students from City-as-School explored the Water Underground – the millions of gallons flowing beneath New York City and the people who make it their business. They conducted site interviews, reviewed government documents, and videotaped interviews with government workers, environmental activists, water scientists, and more.

The students worked with CUP to produce a video called The Water Underground, which has screened in classrooms, environmental organizations, juvenile detention centers, and film festivals across the country. The crew also developed the Sewer in a Suitcase, a working model of New York City’s sewer system, which has demonstrated combined sewer overflow to hundreds of New Yorkers, from pre-schoolers to Community Boards.  

Join us for some deep thinking with your own copy of The Water Undergound today.

To get a Sewer in a Suitcase workshop for your science class, environmental organization, or community group, click here

You can also watch the video here:

Resources & Links

The Lower East Side Ecology Center works toward a more sustainable New York City by providing community-based recycling and composting programs, developing local stewardship of green space, and increasing community awareness, involvement and youth development through environmental education programs.

RECYouth teaches children and teenagers digital video and audio skills.

Funding Support

This project was made possible in part by the Center for Arts Education/Parents as Arts Partners. The Sewer in a Suitcase was made possible by the New York City Environmental Fund.

Special Thanks

Sarah Bostwick, Andrea Meller, RECYouth at Hamilton Fish, and Jae Shin


  • CUP
  • Project Leads
  • Rosten Woo, Damon Rich
  • Project Support
  • Valeria Mogilevich 
  • Amber Yared 
  • Naoki Fujita
  • The Lower East Side Ecology Center
  • Teaching Artist
  • Kate Zidar
  • City-As-School 
  • Students
  • Sean Kelleher 
  • Kim Nuñez 
  • Maggie Acevedo 
  • Ruben Arroyo 
  • Danny Aviles 
  • Adrian Lau 
  • Jared Pierre 
  • Edwin Rodriguez
  • Intern Coordinator
  • Andre Knights
  • Hot Sundae
  • Packaging Design
  • Nicole Killian 
  • Amelia Irwin


The Omnibus Roundup
  • Urban Omnibus
  • May 21, 2010

How often do you see an educational video about water supply that cuts together interviews with representatives from the DEP, claymation cavemen and Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’ Dirty?”

The Water Underground
  • Design Observer
  • May 20, 2010

The CUP staff and student researchers and videographers criss-crossed the five boroughs and assembled a multi-vocal primer on some essential urban infrastructure.