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DRBC Schedules Hearings on Ground Water Regulations

For Immediate Release

February 18, 1999

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) - The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) will hold public hearings on March 9 on proposed amendments to regulations that set limits on ground water withdrawals in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The hearings will be held in the Hearing Room of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Southeast Regional Office, 555 E. North Lane, Lee Park, Suite 6010, Conshohocken, Pa. The first hearing will begin at 1 p.m.; the second at 7 p.m.

The DRBC currently has on the books regulations that establish numerical ground water withdrawal limits for 14 subbasins, or watersheds, in the Ground Water Protected Area of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The limits were derived from baseflow characteristics of geologic formations that were developed in a study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). A geographic information system (GIS) was then used to generate overlay maps of the 14 subbasins which are located in the Neshaminy Creek Basin.

The study later was broadened to include 62 additional subbasins that fall either entirely or partially within the Protected Area. GIS mapping also was prepared for these watersheds.

With a complete map set now in hand, it is the DRBC's intent to amend it regulations to establish withdrawal limits for the entire area. Adding the 62 subbasins to the DRBC's current regulations is the subject of the March 9 hearing.

"We now have a complete spatial analysis of this stressed resource," noted Carol Collier, the DRBC's executive director. "This computer snapshot provides the information we need to manage that resource effectively."

The Ground Water Protected Area, where more stringent regulations apply to ground water withdrawals than they do in the rest of the Delaware River Basin, was established by the DRBC in 1980 at the request of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The goal is to prevent depletion of ground water, protect the interests and rights of lawful users of the same water source, and balance and reconcile alternative and conflicting uses of limited water resources in the region.

Lowered water tables in the Protected Area have reduced flows in some streams and dried up others. This reduction in baseflows affects downstream water uses, negatively impacts on aquatic life, and can reduce the capacity of waterways in the region to assimilate pollutants.

The DRBC's current regulations that apply to the Neshaminy Creek Basin were adopted in January of 1998. They create a two-tiered system of water withdrawal limits.

The first tier serves as a warning that a subbasin is "potentially stressed." In potentially stressed subbasins, applicants for new or expanded ground water withdrawals are required to implement one or more programs to mitigate adverse impacts of additional ground water withdrawals. Acceptable programs include: conjunctive use of ground water and surface water; expanded water conservation programs; programs to control ground water infiltration; and artificial recharge and spray irrigation.

The second tier serves as the maximum withdrawal limit. Under the regulations, ground water withdrawals can not exceed that limit.

The regulations also:

  • provide incentives for holders of existing DRBC dockets and Protected Area permits to implement one or more of the above programs to reduce the adverse impacts of their ground water withdrawals. If docket or permit holders successfully implement one or more programs, the Commission will extend the docket or permit duration for up to ten years;
  • specify criteria for the issuance and review of dockets and permits as well as procedures for revising withdrawal limits to correspond with integrated water resource plans adopted by municipalities for subbasins. (These plans would address such areas as future water demand, options for wastewater discharge, and floodplain and stormwater management practices.);
  • establish protocol for updating and revising withdrawal limits to provide additional protection for streams designated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as "high quality," or "wild, scenic or pastoral" as defined by state's Scenic Rivers Program.

The GIS mapping prepared by the USGS covers all of Montgomery County plus the portions of Berks, Bucks, Chester, and Lehigh counties that fall within the Protected Area. Portions of Delaware and Philadelphia counties, which fall outside the designated zone, also were mapped as was a portion of Chester County that skirts the Protected Area.

The maps depict watershed and municipal boundaries, geology, stream locations, ground water withdrawal points, and discharge locations.

The information is available on compact disk (CD-ROM) at a cost of $10. To order, call the DRBC at 609-883-9500 ext. 249. To review the data at the Commission's offices call 609-883-9500 ext. 263 to make an appointment. To review the CD-ROM at locations within the Protected Area call 609-883-9500 ext. 203.

The study that provided the baseflow analyses for the 14 watersheds in the Neshaminy Creek Basin, and an accompanying map series entitled "Maps of Difference Between Ground-Water Contributions to Base Flow for the Various Recurrence Intervals and Ground-Water Withdrawals in the Neshaminy Creek Basin, Pennsylvania," may also be reviewed at the Commission's offices.

In addition, review copies are available at the offices of the Bucks County Planning Commission (215-345-3400); the Bucks County Library Center (215-348-9082); the Montgomery County Planning Commission (610-278-3733); the Chester County Library (610-363-0884); and the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (610-264-4544).

Water use data as recent as 1996, provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and approximate water and sewer service area boundaries in the Protected Area, can be downloaded from the Commission's web site: http://www.state.nj.us/drbc.

A color map of the Protected Area also is available on the DRBC web site.

The Ground Water Protected Area takes in 1,200 square miles and includes 127 municipalities. In addition to the Neshaminy Creek Watershed, other large drainage areas include the Brandywine Creek, Perkiomen Creek, and Wissahickon Creek subbasins.

In addition to all of Montgomery County, these areas in surrounding counties fall within the Protected Area:

Berks: the townships of Douglass, Hereford, and Union.

Bucks: the townships of Bedminster, Buckingham, Doylestown, East Rockhill, Hilltown, Lower Southampton, Middletown, Milford, New Britain, Newtown, Northampton, Plumstead, Richland, Upper Southampton, Warminster, Warrington, Warwick, West Rockhill, and Wrightstown; the boroughs of Chalfont, Doylestown, Dublin, Hulmeville, Ivyland, Langhorne, Langhorne Manor, New Britain, Newtown, Penndel, Perkasie, Quakertown, Richlandtown, Sellersville, Silverdale, Telford, and Trumbauersville.

Chester: the townships of Birmingham, Charlestown, East Bradford, East Coventry, East Goshen, East Pikeland, Easttown, East Vincent, East Whiteland, North Coventry, Schuylkill, South Coventry, Thornbury, Tredyffrin, Warwick, West Bradford, West Goshen, Westtown, Willistown, and West Whiteland; the boroughs of Elverson, Malvern, Phoenixville, Spring City and West Chester.

Lehigh: Lower Milford Township.