WEST TRENTON, N.J. — The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) ended its drought watch in effect since Nov. 23, 2016.
“Due to recent precipitation and snow melt, combined storage in three large upper basin reservoirs has achieved and sustained a sufficient level for five consecutive days to result in automatic termination of the basinwide drought watch,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini last week.
“Although upper basin reservoir storage has rebounded in recent weeks, other indicators such as groundwater levels, stream flows, precipitation, soil moisture, and local reservoir storage have not all recovered,” said Tambini. “As a result, various state-issued drought watches and warnings based on those indicators remain in effect across most of the basin.”
The upper basin reservoirs that determine drought stages are located in the Catskill Mountains at the headwaters of the Delaware River in New York State. These three New York City reservoirs provide about half of the city’s water supply and support a minimum flow target in the Delaware River at Montague, N.J. established by the U.S. Supreme Court Decree of 1954. Storage, releases, diversions, and flow targets in the DRBC drought management plan are determined in advance and must have the unanimous concurrence of the parties to the decree, which include the four basin states and New York City.
Combined storage in the three upper basin reservoirs had been as low as 39.3 percent of capacity in late Nov. 2016. The reservoirs are currently at about 58 percent of capacity, which is approximately 70 billion gallons below normal for this time of the year.
By transitioning out of the drought watch stage, out-of-basin diversions to New York City and portions of New Jersey established by the decree will return to normal levels. In addition, the Delaware River flow objective at Montague and a second flow objective at Trenton, N.J. will also return to the normal targets.