Executive Director's Message

Summer 2023: News & Views from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission!

Andrew D. Dehoff, P.E., Executive Director

Floods tend to garner more immediate and high-profile attention, but their opposite, the drought, can be just as devastating to an area’s economic and biological health. In fact, a severe drought in the Mid-Atlantic during the 1960s helped spur our agency’s creation as environmental advocates and community leaders had growing concerns over the management of our basin’s precious water resources. These concerns were heightened by the construction of pipelines intended to carry water out of the Susquehanna River to fuel growth outside our basin in the Baltimore and Philadelphia regions. As we kept our eye on unusually dry conditions this past spring, it’s useful to look back at our history with drought management.

In the late 1970s, shortly after the SRBC was formed, the Susquehanna River Basin faced another severe drought, so our scientists got to work on developing drought emergency response and water conservation strategies. One successful approach to alleviate low flow stream conditions is the use and release of water from upstream reservoirs to offset water lost by consumption. For example, we have contracts with the federal government for reserves in both Cowanesque Lake (along the PA/NY state line) and in Curwensville Lake (Clearfield County, PA) that can be released to protect downstream aquatic habitats and assist municipal and industrial users during times of drought.

It’s our responsibility as water resource managers to mitigate drought impacts throughout the basin. We have a strong role as interagency coordinators with a plan that includes monitoring of conditions, ensuring sustainable water allocations, requiring reduced water use and mitigation for consumptive use, and coordinating federal and state agency response actions.

Our driest months of the year tend to fall in late summer and early fall. This year a light snowpack combined with low precipitation made an unusually dry spring. On June 1st, more than 50 water withdrawal projects that we regulate were on passby restrictions – meaning they had to curb or cease their water use. In comparison, on June 1st of last year only five projects were on passby and on the same day in 2021, zero projects.

We will stay vigilant, monitoring conditions as the hot summer rolls on. And you can too by visiting our website where you’ll find a variety of drought monitoring tools. Droughts may come and go, but we’ll always be ready with responsible planning and targeted actions.

Best regards,
Andrew D. Dehoff, P.E.
Executive Director