What We Do
The Commission was established to lead the conservation, development, and administration of the Basin’s resources that would preserve and enhance its value as scenic and recreational asset for the people who live in the Basin.
Our mission, as 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 Commission works to reduce damages caused by floods; provide for the reasonable and sustained development and use of surface and groundwater 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 list below highlights some of the Commission’s major programs and activities.
Billmeyer Quarry Consumptive Use Migitation Project – The Commission and the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA) partnered to investigate the 29-acre Billmeyer Quarry in the lower Susquehanna River Basin near Bainbridge, Pennsylvania, as a potential CU mitigation asset.
Chiques Creek Restoration Initiative – The Commission is partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center, Lancaster County Conservation District, local municipalities, and many other interested stakeholders to collaborate on an innovative approach for achieving water quality improvements in the Chiques Creek Watershed, Lancaster and Lebanon Counties, Pennsylvania.
Compliance and Enforcement – To maintain and enforce the regulation of large water users that meet specific water withdrawal and consumptive water use criteria, the Commission has dedicated staff that conducts random and routine inspections and audits, responds to complaints, and contacts projects that may need to apply for Commission approval.
Consumptive Use Mitigation Plan – The Commission’s consumptive water use regulation, adopted in 1976, required permitted facilities to provide mitigation for their water use during low flow events. The Commission enacted a measure in 1993 to allow permitted facilities to pay a fee to the Commission in lieu of providing actual compensatory water. The purposes of this Consumptive Use Mitigation Plan (CUMP) are to present the state of consumptive water use in the Basin, identify the low flow mitigation needs, and introduce the Commission’s plan for meeting mitigation needs.
Continuous Instream Monitoring (CIM): Established in January 2010, the CIM continuously measures and reports water quality conditions throughout Pennsylvania and New York.
Cumulative Water Use and Availability Study – Published in 2016, the Cumulative Water Use and Availability Study for the Susquehanna River Basin represents the most comprehensive evaluation of water use and availability through the Susquehanna River Basin conducted to date.
Drought Coordination – The Commission manages drought emergencies in the Basin, which includes delineating areas of water supply shortage and declaring drought emergencies.
Early Warning System – The Susquehanna River Basin Commission's Early Warning System provides a framework for innovative partnerships and protocols and for fostering communication and data sharing among public water suppliers, state/local agency personnel, and the emergency response community for the purpose of enhancing drinking water protection efforts.
Flooding Coordination – The Commission coordinates an interagency committee that maintains and operates the Flood Forecast and Warning System.
Grandfathered Water Uses Registration Program – In a recent study that compiled all available data to characterize Basin-wide water use and availability, the Commission estimated that there are possibly more than 700 older, unpermitted facilities with an estimated water use of nearly one billion gallons per day. If accurate, this volume of water use is roughly equal to the total amount currently accounted for, and managed by, the Commission across the entire Basin. With such large quantities in question, the Commission developed a program that would close this significant knowledge gap regarding older, unpermitted water use (also known as grandfathered) to ensure the Commission’s ability to effectively manage the water resources of the Basin.
Groundwater Management Plan – This plan was prepared by the Commission, under the direction of its Water Resources Management Advisory Committee, to provide a framework to effectively manage the Basin’s groundwater resources in cooperation with its member jurisdictions. Adopted by the Commissioners in 2005, the plan promotes and serves as a catalyst for more effective management of groundwater, enhanced coordination, and improved knowledge of the resource and its use.
Lower Susquehanna Source Water Protection Partnership – This Partnership was formed in 2012 to examine ways in which agencies and organizations can collaborate to address common issues and challenges related to protecting sources of drinking water on a regional scale.
Mine Drainage Program – This program involves assessment and planning initiatives that lead to design and construction of mine drainage treatment systems and mine land restoration projects throughout the Basin.
Monitoring and Protection – The Commission collects data to better understand the interactions of biological, chemical, and physical traits of streams throughout the Basin.
Planning and Operations – Water resources planning, hydrologic conditions monitoring, and water use operations are critical to the Commission's role in managing the water resources of the Basin. The Planning and Operations program is primarily responsible for flood risk management, drought planning, consumptive use mitigation, water use and availability studies, and hydrologic investigations.
Project Review – As the permitting arm of the regulatory program, the Commission staff receive and review applications for water withdrawals and consumptive water use, makes recommendations to the commissioners for actions on those applications, and helps to develop key standards guiding how, when and where the Commission’s policies and regulations are exercised.
Public Water Supply Assistance Program – The Commission initiated the PWSAP in 2012 to assist small municipal water supply systems in meeting the Commission’s regulatory requirements.
The Commission is offering a three-part Webinar Series beginning January 2021 to provide guidance on the Commission’s groundwater project renewal process. More information is available.
Sediment and Nutrient Assessment Program – This program has a network of 26 sites that are part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Non-Tidal Water Quality Monitoring Network.
Subbasin Surveys – Beginning in the mid-1980s, each of the Basin’s six subbasins have been surveyed on a rotating basis. These surveys involve the broad, routine assessment of water quality, habitat, and aquatic communities at targeted sites within each subbasin.
Susquehanna Flood Forecast & Warning System – The Susquehanna River Basin from Cooperstown, N.Y., to the Chesapeake Bay is one of the nation's most flood-prone watersheds, experiencing on average $150 million in damages each year. The Susquehanna system provides for early flood warnings to help save lives and reduce property damages.
Water Level Monitoring Grants - The Commission is offering a new grant program to project sponsors specifically targeted to support the collection and reporting of water level data in groundwater production wells in the basin. Grant funding is focused on needs such as purchasing, installing, or maintaining water level monitoring equipment, to provide the appropriate data collection methods to meet the Commission’s requirements to monitor and report operational data. Most projects in the Susquehanna River Basin approved to withdraw groundwater are eligible to apply.
Water Resources Program – The Compact requires the Commission to have a Water Resources Program that is based on the Comprehensive Plan. The Plan consists of the projects the Commission proposes to undertake in order to meet the water resources’ needs of the Basin. The Program serves as the implementation document for addressing the goals and actions identified under the six priority management areas outlined in the Comprehensive Plan.