State of the Delaware River Basin 2013
Introduction: How are We Doing?

Is Our Water Safe to Drink?

Are Fish Plentiful and Safe to Eat?

What Problems Might We Encounter in the Future?

Will We Have Enough Water to Drink and to Grow Our Food?

What Will Be the Water Legacy for Our Children?


In the Delaware River Basin, the news is mixed, and hopeful. We have more than 15 million people - in and out of the basin - depending on our water, and we are using it more efficiently than we used to. Water continues to be a crucial part of generating electrical power. As our demand for electricity increases, so will the need for water.

After decades of improvement, water quality seems to be holding steady, which is very good. Pollutants that are regulated are stable or decreasing. Attention is now focused on testing for and understanding the effects of a wide array of emerging chemicals of concern. 

Striped bass are thriving and horseshoe crabs may be on the rebound. News for oysters and shad is mixed, however, and all but the most common mussels are hard to find in freshwater streams. The Atlantic sturgeon was recently listed as "endangered," its habitat and survival at risk from both natural conditions and human activity in the river.

Landscape changes are perhaps the most difficult to see in a few years, but we removed forest at the surprising rate of 45 football fields per week over the past decade. Natural changes happen more slowly; our bayshore marshes are being eroded or inundated by rising sea levels at a rate of about 4 football fields a week. Freshwater wetlands and stream corridors are in better condition, especially in the upper basin, where more than 70% retain their natural forest cover and function. These natural landscapes are important for water supply and habitat.

We continue to be rich in natural resources that provide benefits to us: water to drink and grow food, streams to canoe and fish, forests to provide clean water, and trails to walk. This is our legacy to safeguard for coming generations.

What's In A Name?

The Delaware River Basin includes nearly 13,000 square miles of land in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Rain that falls on this land flows into streams and rivers that empty into the Delaware River or Delaware Bay. This defines a watershed. A large watershed with many rivers is also called a basin.

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is a government agency started in 1961 to safeguard the water resources within the Delaware River Basin. Representatives of each of the four states and the federal government meet regularly to ensure that water resources are equitably managed for current and future generations.

Want More Information?

Explore the links () provided throughout these pages to learn more about any item. The information in this report represents the most recent look at conditions in the Delaware River Basin based on information on more than 50 topics gathered by experts at DRBC, government agencies, universities, and other groups. Please also check out the linked sections that appear on the right.

More details can be found in the following publications:

Technical Report for the Estuary and Basin (TREB) Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE), 2012
State of the Delaware River Basin DRBC, 2008

We'll be back with a new summary of conditions in 2018.