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DRBC Adopts Ground Water Regulations

For Immediate Release

January 28, 1998

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) - The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) today adopted regulations that establish numerical ground water withdrawal limits for watersheds in portions of southeastern Pennsylvania.

The limits, derived from base flow characteristics of geologic formations, apply to 14 subbasins, or watersheds, in the Neshaminy Creek Basin. Limits for the remaining 52 subbasins within the Ground Water Protected Area of Southeastern Pennsylvania will be developed upon completion of additional base flow analyses.

The Protected Area, where more stringent regulations apply to ground water withdrawals than they do in the rest of the Delaware River Basin, was established by the Commission in 1980 at the request of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The goal is to prevent depletion of ground water, protect the interests and rights of lawful users of the same water source, and balance and reconcile alternative and conflicting uses of limited water resources in the region.

Ground water pumping has contributed to reduced flows in streams in the area. Such reductions in flow can interfere with instream and downstream water uses, adversely affect fisheries and other aquatic life, and reduce the capacity of streams to assimilate natural and man-made pollutants.

While it is clear that ground water withdrawals can impact the flows of perennial streams, it has been difficult to address the impact on streamflow on a project-by-project basis.

The regulations adopted today address that problem by creating a two-tiered system of water withdrawal limits.

The first tier serves as a warning that a subbasin is "potentially stressed." In potentially stressed subbasins, applicants for new or expanded ground water withdrawals will be required to implement one or more programs to mitigate adverse impacts of additional ground water withdrawals. Acceptable programs include: conjunctive use of ground water and surface water; expanded water conservation programs; programs to control ground water infiltration; and artificial recharge and spray irrigation.

The second tier serves as the maximum withdrawal limit. Under the new regulations, ground water withdrawals can not exceed that limit.

The regulations also:

  • provide incentives for holders of existing DRBC dockets and protected area permits to implement one or more of the above programs to reduce the adverse impacts of their ground water withdrawals. If docket or permit holders successfully implement one or more programs, the Commission would extend the docket or permit duration for up to ten years;
  • specify criteria for the issuance and review of dockets and permits as well as procedures for revising withdrawal limits to correspond with integrated water resource plans adopted by municipalities for subbasins;
  • establish protocol for updating and revising withdrawal limits to provide additional protection for streams designated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as "high quality," or "wild, scenic or pastoral" as defined by state's scenic rivers program.

The ground water study that provided the baseflow analyses for geographic formations in the 14 subbasins in the Neshaminy Creek Basin was prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Commission.

The Commission's Ground Water Advisory Committee reviewed the data over several years before drafting the regulations. Public briefings and public hearings were held on the proposed rules during 1997.

The Ground Water Protected Area of Southeastern Pennsylvania includes all of Montgomery County and these portions of the following counties:

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.