Thursday, November 24, 2016

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Delaware River Basin Commission approves drought management special permit

WEST TRENTON NJ – The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) at a special meeting Wednesday issued a special permit for coordinated operation of regional reservoirs, out-of-basin diversions, and Delaware River flow objectives in response to persistent dry conditions.

The major New York State reservoirs in the top end of the Delaware River system are at about 40 percent capacity.

“The special permit unanimously approved today provides for enhanced coordination of operations of regional reservoirs, diversions, and flow objectives during the ongoing, extended period of below-normal precipitation,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini. “Today’s action also makes clear that the entire basin is currently deemed to be in a ‘drought watch’ stage.”

The DRBC’s primary drought management objective, which complements the basin states’ drought response efforts, is to provide for conservation of regional reservoir storage for purposes of water supply and flow augmentation in the Delaware River and salinity control in the Delaware River Estuary.

The special permit issued today under section 10.4 of the compact that created the DRBC in 1961 provides a single set of water resource management responses to address dry conditions both “basinwide” and in the “lower basin,” which is the portion of the basin downstream of Montague, N.J., just south of Port Jervis.

Under the special permit, the transition from one possible drought stage to another – from “watch” to “warning” to “drought” and back again to “normal” – will be based on the combined storage in three reservoirs located in the Catskill Mountains at the headwaters of the Delaware River in New York State. Releases from these New York City reservoirs provide about half of the city’s water supply and support a minimum flow target in the Delaware River at Montague established by the U.S. Supreme Court Decree of 1954.  Combined storage in the three reservoirs is now approximately 40% of capacity.   In accordance with the provisions of the compact, today’s resolution has also been unanimously approved by the parties to the decree, which include Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York State, and New York City.

The below-normal precipitation totals throughout most of the Delaware River Basin, with the resulting effects on streamflows, groundwater levels, reservoir storage, and soil moisture, have prompted New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York to declare drought watches or warnings under their respective drought operating plans in 36 of the 42 counties that lie entirely or partially in the basin.

The DRBC is urging all water users to fully cooperate with requests by the basin states to curb water use where drought watches and warnings have been issued and is encouraging all basin water users to maximize water efficiency wherever possible. “Over 15 million people rely on waters of the Delaware River Basin,” said Tambini. “During times of shortage, they also rely upon coordinated action by the basin states, decree parties, and federal government jointly through the DRBC to meet the basin’s drought management objectives.”

More information, including links to basin state drought pages, updates about water resource conditions, and water savings tips, can be found at


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