Water Is Still Key

In 2014, the New York State Canal Corporation undertook a study to determine the non-tourism economic benefits of the canal system. It found that commercial shipping is still important, but other new uses, such as agricultural irrigation and municipal/industrial water supply for several types of businesses, are having major impacts on the upstate economy. The Canal is now operated by the New York Power Authority (NYPA), which owns three hydroelectric stations along the Canal, and plans to incorporate the Canal into clean, sustainable hydroelectric generation. In addition, some communities, particularly in the western and central parts of the state, use the canal system’s reservoirs for public water supplies and irrigation. Industries also still locate near the Canal to use its waters for processing, manufacturing, cooling, cleaning, and in research and development, especially in the eastern and central parts of the state. For example, the Canal continues to be used by the shipping industry to move large pieces of equipment between the Great Lakes and Hudson River that cannot be moved by truck or rail and more than twenty-five golf courses use water from the Canal for irrigation.

This photograph shows the ruins of the Holly Manufacturing Company on the north side of the Erie Canal at Lockport. In the foreground, the power plant discharges on the south side of the locks. Courtesy of Lockport Public Library via Western New York Library Resources Council and Empire State Digital Network.

This photograph shows golfers at the golf links at Hotel Champlain in Bluff Point, New York. Courtesy of The New York Public Library.

New York State Canal Corporation Report on Economic Benefits of Non-Tourism Use of the NYS Canal System