joanie mahoney

Emma Jacobs / WRVO

Reverend Jim Matthews says the streets outside St. Lucy's Church on the west side of Syracuse used to flood with every rainstorm.

"The sewage used to overflow and it was raw sewage and it was a mess," he recalls.

But now that the county has re-paved the church parking lot with porous asphalt, the flooding has stopped.

That improvement came after an epic court battle that resulted in Onondaga County being ordered to clean up its overflowing sewer system, to prevent the Metro sewage treatment plant from overflowing into Onondaga Lake.

And St. Lucy's is just one of 50 "green infrastructure" projects taken on by the county's "Save the Rain" initiative.

Emma Jacobs / WRVO

From 1998 to 2007, Onondaga County added 7,000 new housing units. Housing unit size went up 40 percent.

The county also added 61 miles of road.

From 2001 to 2008,  the county laid 147 miles of water-moving pipes.

But in all that time, the population of Onondaga County - which includes Syracuse - has remained totally flat.

Meaning: less water is actually being delivered, but the cash-strapped county is spending more on the infrastructure to deliver it.

Gizzakk / via Wikimedia Commons

Here's a riddle: What do you get when you combine an steadily spreading metropolitan area with a neglected downtown core?

Answer: A lot of empty skyscrapers.  Specifically, the Syracuse skyline.