Thursday
January 19, 2017

Delaware River basin drought watch lifted

WEST TRENTON NJ – The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) announced on Wednesday the termination of its drought management special permit in effect since Nov. 23, 2016, when the basin was placed in a drought watch.

“Due to recent precipitation and snow melt, combined storage in three large upper basin reservoirs has achieved and sustained a sufficient level for five consecutive days to result in automatic termination of the basinwide drought watch,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini.  “Although upper basin reservoir storage has rebounded in recent weeks automatically ending the drought watch operations, other indicators such as groundwater levels, stream flows, precipitation, soil moisture, and local reservoir storage have not all recovered. As a result, various state-issued drought watches and warnings based on those indicators remain in effect across most of the basin.”

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 Estuary (i.e., the tidal river and bay). 

The upper basin reservoirs which determine DRBC drought stages are located in the Catskill Mountains at the headwaters of the Delaware River in New York State.  These three 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, N.J. established by the U.S. Supreme Court Decree of 1954.  Storage, releases, diversions, and flow targets in the DRBC drought management plan are determined in advance and must have the unanimous concurrence of the parties to the decree, which include the four basin states and New York City.

Combined storage in the three upper basin reservoirs had been as low as 39.3% of capacity in late November 2016.  The reservoirs are currently at about 58% of capacity, which is approximately 70 billion gallons below normal for this time of the year.


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