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Stressed Aquifer to Get Beefed-Up Protection

For Immediate Release

December 9, 1998

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) - The Delaware River Basin Commission has acquired computer-generated map sets that will serve as valuable tools in the future management of limited ground water supplies in portions of Pennsylvania (see location map).

The maps, or data sets, were prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) over a two-year period using a geographic information system (GIS). The Commission will use the new data in its on-going regulatory program to protect underground water supplies in the Ground Water Protected Area of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The maps, plus data tables, cover all of Montgomery County plus the portions of Berks, Bucks, Chester, and Lehigh counties that fall within the Protected Area. Portions of Delaware and Philadelphia counties, which fall outside the designated zone, also were mapped.

The maps and tables depict watersheds, bedrock and generalized geology, geologic faults, municipal boundaries, stream locations, and municipal and industrial withdrawals and discharges.

The information is available on compact disk at a cost of $10. To order, call the DRBC at 609-883-9500 ext. 249. Water use data as recent as 1996, provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and approximate water and sewer service area boundaries in the Protected Area can be downloaded from the Commission's web site.

The Ground Water 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 DRBC 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.

The DRBC currently has on the books regulations that establish numerical ground water withdrawal limits for the 14 subbasins, or watersheds, in the Protected Area's Neshaminy Creek Basin. The limits, derived from baseflow characteristics of geologic formations, are based on previous USGS mapping. The USGS mapping completed this month covers the Protected Area's remaining subbasins.

With a complete map set now in hand, it is the DRBC's intent to amend it regulations to establish withdrawal limits for the entire area.

"We now have a complete spatial analysis of this stressed resource," noted Carol Collier, the DRBC's executive director. "This computer snapshot provides the information we need to manage that resource effectively."

The DRBC regulations, adopted in January of 1998, create 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 are now 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 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 will 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 Protected Area of Southeastern Pennsylvania takes in 1,200 square miles and includes 127 municipalities. Some of its larger watersheds are Perkiomen Creek (362 square miles), Neshaminy Creek (242 square miles) and Wissahickon Creek (64 square miles).

In addition to all of Montgomery County, these areas in surrounding counties fall within the Protected Area:

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 Trumbanersville.

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.