Home > Newsroom > News Releases > Dry Weather Drops Reservoirs To Drought Warning Levels
Dry Weather Drops Reservoirs To Drought Warning Levels

For Immediate Release

November 6, 2001

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.) - Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Executive Director Carol R. Collier today announced that Upper Delaware Basin reservoir storage has declined to drought warning levels, triggering reductions in Delaware River flow targets and water diversions to New York City and New Jersey.

"These actions are required by the commission's drought operating plan, which is based on storage levels in three large reservoirs located in the Catskill Mountains at the basin's headwaters in New York State," said Ms. Collier. As of November 6, combined storage in the New York City-owned Cannonsville, Pepacton, and Neversink reservoirs was about 91 billion gallons, 58 billion gallons below normal, and 33 percent of capacity.

Water supply diversions to New York City were lowered from 800 to 560 million gallons per day, and maximum diversions to New Jersey through the Delaware and Raritan Canal were reduced from 100 to 70 million gallons per day. In addition, minimum flow targets in the Delaware River were lowered from 1,750 to 1,550 cubic feet per second at Montague, N.J. and from 3,000 to 2,700 cubic feet per second at Trenton, N.J. Releases from basin reservoirs are used to meet these targets.

"These water-conserving actions save up to 370 million gallons per day of storage in the New York City reservoirs," said Ms. Collier.

Over 17 million people rely on the waters of the Delaware River Basin. New York City, which lies outside the basin, gets roughly half its water from the Upper Delaware reservoirs.

In addition, the Merrill Creek Reservoir, located near Phillipsburg, N.J. and constructed by a consortium of electric utilities in the late 1980s, is now releasing water to the Delaware River to replace evaporation losses caused by power generation. These releases are being triggered by operating criteria approved by the commission.

Rainfall during 2001 has been deficient in most areas of the basin except for the extreme south, where Sussex and Kent counties in Delaware have had above-normal precipitation. Rainfall is nearly eight inches below normal for the year in the Upper Delaware Basin, where the large New York City reservoirs are located. The last four months have been very dry in the central portion of the basin, particularly in the Philadelphia area and in central and southern New Jersey. October was extremely dry throughout the basin, with an average of less than one inch of rainfall.

In response to the dry conditions, Pennsylvania has declared drought warnings in the Delaware River Basin counties of Chester, Lancaster, and Lebanon, and drought watches in Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Delaware, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, and Wayne counties. New Jersey declared a drought watch for the entire state on October 30. New York State has declared drought watches for the eight counties falling in the Delaware River Watershed -- Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Greene, Orange, Schoharie, Sullivan, and Ulster. Voluntary conservation measures are being requested in these areas.The designations are based on each state's comprehensive set of indicators including precipitation, storage, and ground water and stream flow levels. "The designations and the call for voluntary water conservation by the states are strongly supported by the commission," said Ms. Collier.

"With cooler weather and generally reduced demand for water, the dry conditions are not as noticeable in day-to-day activities as they would be during the summer, " noted Ms. Collier. "However, refilling the large reservoirs will require above-normal precipitation during the winter and spring. Additional conservation measures may be required if precipitation continues at below-normal levels."

The DRBC, founded in 1961, is an interstate-federal agency responsible for managing the water resources within the 13,539 square-mile Delaware River Watershed, which drains portions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Its members are the governors of those four states and a federal representative appointed by the President.


Contact: Clarke Rupert, 609-883-9500 ext. 260


Link to DRBC's Drought Information Page