Southeastern Pa. Groundwater Protected Area (SEPA-GWPA)
What is the GWPA?

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Groundwater Protected Area (GWPA) is an area of southeastern Pa. where more stringent regulations apply to groundwater withdrawals than they do in the rest of the Delaware River Basin.

It was initially established in 1980 by the DRBC at the request of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Why was the GWPA Created? What Did it Do?

Increased development in this region was negatively impacting groundwater levels. Lowered water tables were reducing flows in some streams and drying 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.

Resolution 1980-18 created the requirement that new or expanded well water projects located within the delineated GWPA involving an average withdrawal of more than 10,000 gallons per day (gpd) from a well or group of wells operated as a system must obtain a DRBC Protected Area Permit.

In the remainder of the Delaware River Basin, DRBC's review threshold for water withdrawal projects is for an average withdrawal of more than 100,000 gpd during any calendar month.

GWPA Goals:

  • Prevent depletion of ground water

  • Protect interests and rights of all water users

  • Balance and reconcile competing/conflicting uses of limited water resources

Is it Working?

The GWPA regulatory program has been successful. Over the period from 2000 to 2020, cumulative net groundwater withdrawal in the SEPA GWPA has decreased.

Decreases are atrributed to overall water conservation measures and to more surface water being used for water supply rather than ground water.

Related Resources:

Counties and Municipalities Included in the GWPA

Map showing the counties and municipalities within the Southeast PA Groundwater Protected Area.

View Map as pdf

GWPA Basics:

  • Area: 1,200 square miles

  • Population: One Million people

  • Municipalities: 127

  • Sub-basins: 76

  • Water Uses: domestic; municipal; commercial; industrial and agricultural

Watersheds included in the GWPA:

  • Neshaminy Creek

  • Brandywine Creek

  • Perkiomen Creek

  • Wissahickon Creek

Counties/Municipalities in the GWPA:

  • Mongomery County: entire

  • 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
Percent of Groundwater Use in the Delaware River Basin: 1997-2017

This time series video shows the percent of groundwater use in the Delaware River Basin as compared to the available groundwater per hydrologic unit (watershed ID #) for the years 1997 - 2017. The Southeastern PA Groundwater Protected Area and NJ's Critical Area 2 are delineated; these are known areas of groundwater stress in the basin. The time series was created by DRBC staff using data from the USGS.