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DRBC Amends Ground Water Regulations In Southeast Pennsylvania To Include 62 Additional Watersheds

For Immediate Release

June 25, 1999

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) - The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) this week amended its Ground Water Protected Area Regulations for Southeastern Pennsylvania to establish numerical withdrawal limits for 62 additional subbasins, or watersheds.

"The action taken by the commissioners at their June 23 meeting means that the entire Protected Area is now covered by specific numerical ground water withdrawal limits for 76 watersheds," DRBC Executive Director Carol R. Collier said.

The Commission, at the request of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, established the Protected Area in 1980 after it became evident that development was negatively impacting ground water levels.

"The goal of the Protected Area regulations 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," Collier said.

"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 aquatic life, and can reduce the capacity of waterways in the region to assimilate pollutants," Collier added.

Prior to this week's action, the DRBC regulations, adopted in 1998, established numerical ground water withdrawal limits only for the 14 watersheds in the Neshaminy Creek Basin.

The Protected Area regulations use 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 Pennsylvania as "high quality," or "wild, scenic or pastoral" as defined by the state's Scenic Rivers Program.

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 original 14 subbasins located in the Neshaminy Creek Basin. The study later was broadened to include the 62 additional subbasins that fall either entirely or partially within the Protected Area. GIS mapping also was prepared for these watersheds.

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, the following 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.

The DRBC was formed in 1961 by compact among the four basin states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware) and the federal government. Commission programs include water quality protection, watershed planning, water supply allocation, regulatory review, water conservation initiatives, drought management, flood control and recreation.

For more information, visit the DRBC website at www.state.nj.us/drbc.