Subnormal rainfall in the mid-sixties culminated in a full-fledged drought in 1965-66. The area's supply of drinking water was in jeopardy. This served notice that the supply of potable water had to be increased or continued growth and development would be severely limited. Three water systems served area needs: the City of Ithaca system, drawing from Six Mile Creek; the Town of Lansing system, drawing from lakeside wells; and the Cornell University system, drawing from Fall Creek.

The city system was supplying all of the city, the Town of Ithaca, the Varna area of the Town of Dryden, and the Village of Cayuga Heights. By 1972, demand for city water was approaching six million gallons per day (MGD), while under drought conditions the city system could supply only 5.4 MGD. Also at this time, the NYS Department of Public Health officially condemned the Town of Lansing water system. The City of Ithaca, wary of added demand upon its system, declared a moratorium on the number of new "taps," or water connections, outside the city.

A 1968 study Commissioned by Tompkins County had pinpointed Bolton Point as the best location for a new water supply facility. In 1971, representatives from the Towns of Dryden, Ithaca, and Lansing and the Village of Cayuga Heights funded an engineering feasibility study for a Bolton Point installation. They were determined to be active partners, not merely customers, of any new water supplier.

The engineers determined that a Bolton Point project would cost $6,070,000, and the four municipalities agreed to a joint bond issue to finance construction. This process took nine months before approval was secured in January 1974. By February, the Southern Cayuga Lake Intermunicipal Water Commission was formally constituted and engineers were directed to proceed with construction drawings. Bids were opened at the end of September. To its dismay, the Commission discovered that its six million dollar project now had a price tag of nine million dollars. Runaway inflation had arrived. It had to be dealt with.

After studying the bids, the Commission agreed they were reasonable, but costs had to be reduced. By elimination, simplification and reduction in scope, they lowered the price to a little more than seven million dollars. By the end of 1976, construction was complete and it was water from Bolton Point that now was filling many of the glasses in the Ithaca area.

By financing the system with 20-year, non-callable serial bonds instead of 30 year bonds, and by taking advantage of a $1,000,000 Farm and Home Administration (FHA) grant, the Commission saved its customers over $5,000,000 in financing costs. These bonds have now been retired and the Commission is clear of debt.

The plant can currently process water at a rate of 9 million gallons a day. With the construction of additional filters and two pump systems, its capacity can be increased to 12 MGD; the original plans allow for a maximum expansion of the system to 24 MGD, if needed. Recent daily production averages 2.476 MGD, or some 38.4 million glasses of drinking water. Clearly, with a per capita consumption of more than 82 gallons a day, the Bolton Point Municipal Water System's 30,000 consumers are doing more with their water than drinking it.