Basin Water Use

One of the main responsibilities of DRBC's Water Resource Planning Branch is long-term water supply planning for the basin.

In order to look long-term, we need to have an understanding of how water is currently being used in the basin, as well as explore historical data.

NEW Publication! Water Withdrawal and Consumptive Use Estimates for the Delaware River Basin (1990-2017) With Projections Through 2060 (October 2021)

Water Use in the DRB

Water withdrawals are tracked throughout the basin to identify key water-using sectors and trends in use.

Total Water Withdrawals in the DRB, 2016. Graphic by DBC.

This figure shows the basin-wide picture of water withdrawals, exports and consumptive use, by sector, based on 2016 calendar year water use data; the data shown represent daily average withdrawals.
[mgd = millions gallons per day]

Key Delaware River Basin Water Use Facts:

  • Based on 2016 data, an estimated 13.3 million people rely on water from the Basin for their daily water needs.

    • Approximately 8.3 million people live in the Basin. 

    • The volume of exports to New York City and northeastern New Jersey is sufficient to supply water to an additional 5 million people.

  • Total ground and surface water withdrawals from the Basin: 6,565 mgd (6.6 Billion gallons per day)

  • Major Exports from the Basin: 607 mgd

  • Consumptive Use in the Basin: 364 mgd

  • Approximately 95% of all water used in the Basin is obtained from surface waters.

Three dominant use sectors account for over 80% of total water withdrawals; these sectors are: power generation (Thermo, 58%), public water supply (PWS, 15%) and industrial use (9%).

DRBC tracks withdrawals in these three key sectors closely.

Long-term data extends through 2016 and shows generally static trends in total water withdrawn; for PWS, water conservation practices have neutralized population increases, and for industry, the closing of some facilities have balanced new ones.

DRB basinwide water use by sector. Graphic by DRBC.

Consumptive use is the portion of water withdrawn from a watershed that is not immediately returned.

In the Delaware River Basin, nearly 1 billion gallons of water leaves each day and is not directly returned.

In addition to major exports of water leaving the basin for water supply to NYC and northeastern N.J., the rest of this 1 BGD figure is due to consumptive use; for example, from irrigation, public water supply and thermoelectric power generation.

An understanding of consumptive water use provides additional insight into water use patterns and is an important indicator in the management of water resources.

DRB basinwide consumptive use by sector. Graphic by DRBC.

While groundwater withdrawals only amount to about 5% of all water withdrawn from the DRB daily, it is still important to track.

There are two areas in the DRB that are showing signs of stress from overpumping and are recognized as critical or protected areas: the Southeastern Pennsylvania Groundwater Protected Area (SEPA-GWPA) and Critical Area #2 in south-central New Jersey.

The management programs in place have been successful in protecting the resource, through stricter control and regulation of groundwater withdrawals, water conservation programs and an overall increase in surface water diversions to supplement or reduce groundwater withdrawals.  

Trends in groundwater withdrawal in critical and protected areas in the DRB. Graphic by DRBC.

Presentations, Reports and Other Resources
Links for More Information