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Susquehanna River Basin Commission Overview


Susquehanna River Subbasins

The Susquehanna River is the nation's sixteenth largest river and is the largest river lying entirely in the United States that flows into the Atlantic Ocean. The Susquehanna and its hundreds of tributaries drain 27,510 square miles, an area nearly the size of South Carolina, spread over parts of the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

The river meanders 444 miles from its origin at Otsego Lake near Cooperstown, N.Y., until it empties into the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Md. The Susquehanna contributes one-half of the freshwater flow to the Bay.

The river basin borders the major population centers of the east coast, and although relatively undeveloped, has experienced problems of water pollution and overusage. Because the Susquehanna River flows through three states and is classified as a navigable waterway by the federal government, there are state, regional, and national interests involved. There is a need to coordinate the efforts of three states and the agencies of the federal government, as well as a need to establish a management system to oversee the use of the water and related natural resources of the Susquehanna.


These needs led to the drafting of the Susquehanna River Basin Compact, which was signed into law on December 24, 1970. The Compact, as adopted by the Congress of the United States, and the legislatures of New York State, Pennsylvania and Maryland, provides the mechanism to guide the conservation, development, and administration of the water resources of the vast river basin. Susquehanna River Basin Compact (PDF, 51 pages, 133KB)

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The Compact established the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) as the agency to coordinate the water resources efforts of the three states and the federal government.

Each member is represented by a commissioner who serves as the spokesperson for the government that he or she represents. In the case of the federal government, the commissioner and his alternate are appointed by the President of the United States. For the three states, the commissioners are the governors or their designees. The governors also appoint alternate commissioners.

The commissioners, or their alternates, meet periodically to act on applications for projects using water, adopt regulations, and direct planning and management activities affecting the basin's water resources. Each of the four commissioners has a single vote.

Under the leadership of an Executive Director, technical, administrative, and clerical personnel support the daily operations of the Commission.

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The mission of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), which is defined in the Compact, is to enhance public welfare through comprehensive planning, water supply allocation, and management of the water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin.

To accomplish this mission, the SRBC works to: reduce damages caused by floods; provide for the reasonable and sustained development and use of surface and ground water for municipal, agricultural, recreational, commercial and industrial purposes; protect and restore fisheries, wetlands and aquatic habitat; protect water quality and instream uses; and ensure future availability of flows to the Chesapeake Bay.

The SRBC is uniquely qualified to carry out this mission. As a federal-interstate compact commission, its focus is defined by the natural boundaries of the river basin rather than the political boundaries of the member states. As such, the SRBC serves as a forum to provide coordinated management, promote communication among the members, and resolve water resource issues and controversies within the basin.

The goals of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission are:

  1. To be responsive to water resource management needs of SRBC's signatory members;
  2. To provide excellent service to the public;
  3. To coordinate management of interstate water resources and serve as an effective forum for resolution of water resource issues and controversies within the basin;
  4. To be a leader in issues concerning the conservation, utilization, allocation, development, and management of water resources within the Susquehanna River Basin;
  5. To encourage excellence in SRBC staff by affording opportunities for professional growth and development and by providing a stimulating work environment for all Commission employees; and
  6. To provide public information and education about the water resources of the basin.
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SRBC staff develops and implements the programs as directed by the commissioners and as found in SRBC's comprehensive plan, Comprehensive Plan for the Water Resources of the Susquehanna River Basin, The six priority management areas of the Comprehensive Plan are listed below, along with goals that are specific to SRBC. SRBC is committed to taking the actions necessary to meet the goals.

A. Water Supply

B. Water Quality

C. Flooding

D. Ecosystems

E. Chesapeake Bay

F. Coordination, Cooperation and Public Information

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