Drought watch is­sued for en­tire Delaware River Basin

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

The lack of rain in the east con­tin­ues to worry of­fi­cials and on Wed­nes­day re­sulted in a drought watch be­ing de­clared for the en­tire Delaware River Basin — which in­cludes Berks, Ch­ester, Delaware and Mont­gomery coun­ties.

Al­ready the Penn­syl­va­nia De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion has de­clared drought watches in 26 east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia coun­ties with six more, Berks, Ch­ester and four more in the Le­high Val­ley be­ing placed on the more se­vere “drought warn­ing.”

And on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, the Delaware River Basin Com­mis­sion held a spe­cial meet­ing and took ac­tion al­low­ing them to move quickly to man­age wa­ter flows and re­leases through­out Penn­syl­va­nia, New York and New Jer­sey.

The DRBC is a fed­eral/in­ter­state gov­ern­ment agency re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing wa­ter re­sources within the 13,539 square-mile Delaware River Basin.

“To­day’s ac­tion makes clear that the en­tire basin is cur­rently deemed to be in a ‘drought watch stage,’” said Steve Tam­bini, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the DRBC.

Ac­cord­ing to the Nov. 16 drought re­port by the DEP, “an­other week of be­low nor­mal pre­cip­i­ta­tion in the mid-state to east­ern por­tions of the state has ex­ac­er­bated the al­ready low stream flows, ground­wa­ter lev­els and de­clin­ing soil mois­ture con­di­tions.”

Pro­jected rain­fall for the next few weeks “un­for­tu­nately will not pro­vide sig­nif­i­cant re­lief where it is needed most,” ac­cord­ing to DEP.

In the east­ern part of Penn­syl­va­nia, rain­fall is 75 per­cent be­low nor­mal in the last 90 days. In Bucks County, for in­stance, rain­fall is more than 6 inches less than is nor­mal for this time of year, ac­cord­ing to the DEP re­port.

“Ground­wa­ter lev­els con­tinue their de­cline in the Delaware River Basin coun­ties,” the re­port read.

Ch­ester and Mont­gomery county ground­wa­ter lev­els are at the “drought watch” level; Delaware County ground­wa­ter flows are at the more se­vere “drought warn­ing” level and Berks County is one of nine coun­ties at the “emer­gency” level.

Berks County’s stream­flow lev­els are also at the “emer­gency” level and flows in Delaware and Ch­ester coun­ties are down as well, ac­cord­ing to DEP.

And in all four lo­cal coun­ties, Berks, Ch­ester, Delaware and Mont­gomery, soil mois­ture in­di­ca­tors are at the “watch” level.

In a Nov. 8 let­ter to wa­ter sup­pli­ers, DEP rec­om­mended 5 per­cent re­duc­tions in wa­ter use through vol­un­tary con­ser­va­tion mea­sures in coun­ties at the “watch” sta­tus, which in­cludes all four lo­cal coun­ties.

One Berks County wa­ter sup­plier, North Hei­del­berg, al­ready has im­ple­mented

wa­ter use re­stric­tions.

In terms of reser­voir stor­age, a drought warn­ing is trig­gered when wa­ter lev­els in two key reser­voirs — Blue Marsh Reser­voir in Berks County and Beltzville in Car­bon County — fall be­low set lev­els, ac­cord­ing to the DRBC.

At Blue Marsh, that drought level is 283 feet. Ac­cord­ing to the Army Corps of Engi­neers web­site, Blue Marsh’s level was just be­low 285 feet on Wed­nes­day.

At Beltzville, wa­ter lev­els on Wed­nes­day were al­ready be­low the drought level of 615 feet ac­cord­ing to the Army Corps of Engi­neers.

The ma­jor reser­voirs near the Delaware River’s head­wa­ters in up­state New York are at a com­bined ca­pac­ity of about 40 per­cent.

Those reser­voirs are the ma­jor wa­ter sup­ply for New York City and, by their with­drawal, re­move wa­ter from the Delaware River Wa­ter­shed.

At DRBC’s spe­cial meet­ing Wed­nes­day, the agency is­sued “a spe­cial per­mit for co­or­di­nated op­er­a­tion of re­gional reser­voirs.”

It will al­low the agency to act quickly to help keep the “salt line” — the area where brack­ish salt wa­ter in Delaware Bay meets fresh wa­ter in the river — down­stream of drink­ing wa­ter and in­dus­trial wa­ter in­takes in Penn­syl­va­nia and New Jer­sey.

That line is cur­rently 19 miles fur­ther up­stream than it nor­mally is at this time of year, de­spite fresh­wa­ter reser­voir re­leases de­signed to push it back down­stream, ac­cord­ing to DRBC.

TOM KELLY III — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

The wa­ter in the Green Lane Reser­voir is very low and some ar­eas along Route 663 (Lay­field Road) in Up­per Hanover are all dried up, leav­ing a large area for Cana­dian Geese to walk in­stead of swim. The area in the up­per part of the reser­voir is dry for sev­eral hun­dred yards un­til wa­ter ap­pears again, in a deeper area east of the road­way.

TOM KELLY III— FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

The wa­ter in the Green Lane Reser­voir is very low and some area’s along Rt. 663 (Lay­field Rd.) in Up­per Hanover are all dried up leav­ing a large area for Cana­dian Geese to walk in­stead of swim. The area in the up­per park of the reser­voir is dry for sev­eral hun­dred yards un­til wa­ter ap­pears again in deeper area east of the road­way.

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