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Peak Water Demands in the Delaware River Basin Have Likely Occurred
New DRBC report shows that despite population increases, water use is projected to decrease; consumptive use is projected to remain constant

For Immediate Release

October 19, 2021

(West Trenton, N.J.) -- The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) recently published a report entitled Water Withdrawal and Consumptive Use Estimates for the Delaware River Basin (1990-2017) with Projections through 2060.

"DRBC’s planning programs include the evaluation of sustainable water availability in the Delaware River Basin, supporting efforts to ensure water security for over 13 million people in four states," DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini said. "This is the first time in DRBC’s history that nearly 30 years of water use data have been used to project future water withdrawals and consumptive water uses for multiple water use sectors."

Most of the water used in the Basin comes from surface water. Major water use sectors highlighted in this report include public water supply, power generation, industry, mining, irrigation, self-supplied domestic (private water wells) and out-of-basin transfers. The report also evaluated and projected consumptive use, or water that is withdrawn from the Basin but is not returned; examples include out-of-basin water transfers and water lost to evaporation from being used for cooling purposes in power generation.

The data show that peak water withdrawals in the Basin have likely already occurred. Further, despite a continued increase in population, water demands are projected to decrease through 2060. More people using less water overall is indicative of the benefits of water efficiency in the Basin.

The data also show that the amount of water consumptively used is projected to remain relatively constant. One reason is a change in technology for generating power; newer recirculating technology withdrawals less water overall but results in higher rates of evaporation.

"While peak water demand may be in the past, the complex interstate systems that support water resources throughout the Basin still need proper management and protection," Tambini continued. "The results of this study will be incorporated into water availability and water resiliency assessments for the Delaware River Basin that will also consider a repeat of extreme drought conditions and changes to flow and sea level rise due to climate change."

The report, as well as the historical and projected data supporting this report, is available at https://www.nj.gov/drbc/programs/supply/use-demand-projections2060.html.

The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency created in 1961 by concurrent compact legislation, marking the first time that the federal government and a group of states joined together as equal partners in a river basin planning, development and regulatory agency. The five Commission members are the governors of the Basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division, who represents the federal government.

To learn more about the Commission, please visit www.drbc.gov or follow DRBC on Twitter at @DRBC1961.

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Kate Schmidt, Kate.Schmidt@drbc.gov

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