Basin Water Use
How is Water Used in the DRB?

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

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

In 2021, the DRBC published a report assessing 30 years of water withdrawals and consumptive use in the Delaware River Basin, with projections through the year 2060.

Delaware River Basin Water Use

  • An estimated 13.3 million people rely on water from the Basin for their daily water needs (2016 data).

    • 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: 6,390 mgd (~6.4 Billion gallons per day; 2020 data)

  • Total Consumptive Use (consumptive use is the portion of water withdrawn from a watershed that is not immediately returned): 847 mgd (2020 data)

    • Major Exports from the Basin: 594 mgd (out-of-basin water diversions)

    • Consumptive Use in the Basin: 263 mgd (e.g., from public water supply, thermoelectric and irrigation)

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

Major Water Use Sectors

Three dominant use sectors account for over 68% of total water withdrawals in the DRB:

  • Power Generation (aka Thermoelectric, 49%)

  • Public Water Supply (PWS, 12%)

  • Industrial use (7%)

Some Key Findings from the 2021 Water Use/Projection Report

  • Peak water withdrawal from the Delaware River Basin has likely already occurred (in 2005 and 2006 it was estimated to be approximately 9.917 billion gallons per day).

  • In addition to the three major water use sectors (power, public water supply and industry) tracked by the DRBC, irrigation is also a key sector that is strongly correlated with climatic variables.

    • Power (Thermoelectric): Water withdrawals have decreased and are projected to continue to decrease. However, consumptive use is expected to remain constant.

    • Public Water Supply: Water withdrawals have decreased and are projected to continue to decrease despite an increasing population.

    • Industry: Water withdrawals and consumptive use have decreased and are expected to remain constant.

    • Irrigation: Comprised of multiple uses; the primary is agricultural irrigation. Withdrawals and consumptive use are projected to increase in the future.

[mgd = millions gallons per day]

Total DRB Water Withdrawals

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

This figure shows the basin-wide picture of water withdrawals, exports and consumptive use, by sector, based on 2020 calendar year water use data; the data shown represent daily average withdrawals.

Total Water Withdrawals in the DRB, 2020. Graphic by DRBC.

Historical & Projected Water Withdrawals in the DRB

Historic & Projected Water Withdrawals in the DRB. Graphic by the DRBC.

 

Historic & Projected Water Withdrawals in the DRB by Major Sector. Graphic by the DRBC.

Historical & Projected Consumptive Use in the DRB

Historic & Projected Consumptive Use in the DRB. Graphic by the DRBC.

 

Historic and Projected Consumptive Use in the DRB by Major Sector. Graphic by the DRBC.

Groundwater

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

Groundwater Withdrawals in the DRB

The below graphic shows net groundwater withdrawals (1990-2020) and projections (to 2060) for the entire Delaware River Basin, broken down by water use sector.

Historic and Projected Groundwater Withdrawals in the Delaware River Basin. Graphic by the DRBC.Special Groundwater Management Areas in the DRB

Two areas of the DRB are included in special management programs to mitigate historical groundwater supply issues and prevent future stress. These programs 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.

The below graphic shows net groundwater withdrawals (1990-2020) and projections (to 2060) for the SEPA-GWPA, broken down by sector.

Historic and Projected Groundwater Withdrawals in the SEPA Groundwater Protected Area. Graphic by the DRBC.

Presentations, Reports and Other Resources

Water Resources Program

Water Use/Withdrawal Info

Groundwater Info

Links for More Information