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New Study Estimates Groundwater Availability for the Delaware River Basin
Delaware River Basin Commission science highlights sustainable use across the Basin

For Immediate Release

January 10, 2023

(West Trenton, N.J.) -- The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has released an assessment of current and projected groundwater availability for the Delaware River Basin. The results are summarized in a new report, Estimated Groundwater Availability in the Delaware River Basin 2020–2060.

"While groundwater only accounts for about 5% of the total water withdrawals from the Delaware River Basin, it is a critical water source in need of sustainable use and planning," said Michael Thompson, a Water Resource Engineer at DRBC and a primary author of the report. "In 2020, groundwater withdrawals were about 450 million gallons per day, of which nearly 75% was used to meet drinking water needs."

Results from this report indicate that groundwater resources are, and will continue to be, used at sustainable rates throughout the Delaware River Basin. "It is encouraging that even at the upper end of projected net withdrawals during a very dry year, groundwater use remains sustainable overall," said Sara Sayed, a Water Resource Scientist at DRBC and a primary author of the report. Only one subbasin (the Little Lehigh Creek, PA) is projected to use more than 75% (and less than 100%) of estimated available groundwater in a very dry year.

"The DRBC works to ensure water security for over 13.3 million people in four states," DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini said. "To better manage this shared resource, the DRBC needed to understand the current and future trends impacting groundwater availability."

The report gives special focus to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Groundwater Protected Area (SEPA-GWPA), which the Commission created at the request of the Commonwealth in 1980 to address unsustainable groundwater depletion in this 1,200 square mile, high-growth region. Groundwater use has stabilized under DRBC’s management of SEPA-GWPA.

Considerations of seasonality, natural resources, and climate change are also discussed, and the report provides insight to areas of future study which may advance future groundwater planning efforts. Confined aquifers in the Atlantic Coastal Plain, which covers parts of New Jersey and Delaware, were not included in the project scope.

View/download the report (pdf)

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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Elizabeth Koniers Brown, Elizabeth.Brown@drbc.gov

Kate Schmidt, Kate.Schmidt@drbc.gov

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