Water Quality Assessment Reports
2020 Water Quality Assessment

DRBC is currently soliciting comments on its draft methodology proposed to be used in the 2020 Delaware River and Bay Water Quality Assessment Report. Comments are due by 5 p.m., Friday, March 6.

Click here to view the draft methodology and instructions for comment

Delaware River and Bay Water Quality Assessment Reports Overview

DRBC is the entity that establishes or revises water quality standards, water quality criteria and designated uses for the mainstem Delaware River, and each basin state's water quality regulations refer to or defer to DRBC for the mainstem. DRBC uses docket approvals or administrative agreements to implement and enforce water quality criteria, and the commission conducts monitoring and assessments to ensure that criteria are being met.

Every two years, the DRBC compiles a Delaware River and Bay Water Quality Assessment Report for the U.S. EPA, which provides an assessment of the Delaware River and Bay's support of various uses during previous years. The basin states use the DRBC main stem assessment as part of their reports to U.S. EPA. The uses, which are protected by the DRBC's Water Quality Regulations (pdf 4 MB) or by the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, are:

  • Maintenance of aquatic life
  • Providing a raw water source for human consumption
  • Swimming and recreation
  • Fish consumption
  • Shellfish consumption

The assessment primarily involves comparing levels of key water quality indicators (pH, for example) with DRBC stream quality objectives, identifying impaired waters, or those that do not meet DRBC's water quality regulations. The regulations define "zones" in the Delaware River (pdf 1.4 MB) to which the stream quality objectives are applied, and the report assesses water quality based in part upon those zones.

Data used for the report come from a variety of sources. The foundation for the assessment comes from DRBC's three water quality monitoring programs that cover different sections of the Delaware River:

  • Scenic Rivers Monitoring Program (From Hancock, N.Y. to the Delaware Water Gap)
  • Lower Delaware Monitoring Program (from the Delaware Water Gap to Trenton, N.J.)
  • Delaware Estuary Boat Run Program (from Trenton, N.J. to the mouth of the Delaware Bay)

In addition, data from a variety of other sources were utilized in making the water quality assessments. These other sources include:

  • U.S. Geological Survey National Water Information System
  • Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Water Quality Network
  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Ambient Water Quality Monitoring Program
  • New Jersey DEP Ambient Surface Water Monitoring Program
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Coastal Assessment Program

The biennial reporting of water quality assessments of the Delaware River and Bay is intended to provide the U.S. EPA and the public with an overview of water quality conditions and to provide a basis for further study. DRBC typically leads impaired waters' recovery for the mainstem river and bay through the establishment of "pollution budgets" or waste allocations, which set interim and long term standards, goals, and plans. DRBC also takes the lead to ensure that its Special Protection Waters Antidegradation Program for the non-tidal Delaware River is also working to keep the clean water clean upstream of Trenton, N.J.

Delaware River and Bay Water Quality Assessment Reports (1998-2018)

Past reports are linked below, starting with the most recent submission (2018). All are pdfs.