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2016-11-30 / Front Page

Drought Watch Issued For Delaware River Basin

By Abby Butler


Reservoir levels throughout the New York City reservoir system are considerably lower than normal. 
file photo Reservoir levels throughout the New York City reservoir system are considerably lower than normal. file photo At a special meeting on Nov. 23, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) 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 Delaware River Basin has effectively been placed in a drought watch, which allows controlling parties to implement water preservation operations to mitigate the impacts of a particularly dry year.

The main goals of the DRBC in addressing the drought situation are to conserve regional reservoir storage for water supply and flow augmentation of the Delaware River and to also continue releasing water to repel the salt front in the Delaware Estuary. Maximum out-of-basin diversions and flow objectives based on drought conditions have been established, allowing officials to focus on conserving water with less pressure to meet flow targets in the main stem of the river.

According to New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spokesperson Adam Bosch, the DEP has been releasing water from the Cannonsville Reservoir to meet flow targets in Montague, New Jersey, though releases from the Pepacton Reservoir have also been increased for the same purpose.

Because of dry conditions, releases from both reservoirs have been increased over the average to meet downstream flow targets and, as a result, reservoir levels are unusually low. This is especially noticeable in the Cannonsville, which is currently at 18 percent of capacity. The Pepacton is at approximately 50 percent of capacity and releases from both have been decreased in the past three days.

Residents throughout the Delaware River Basin, which encompasses three states, are encouraged to conserve water. Dry conditions are not expected to lessen significantly in the near future, according to precipitation models. Currently, the lower Delaware River Basin is in a designated drought warning, though no emergency has been declared.

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