On Thursday, June 28 the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) suspended 37 water withdrawals due to localized stream flow levels dropping throughout the Susquehanna basin.
Under SRBC’s current “passby flow restrictions”, when streams drop to predetermined low flow levels, operators must stop taking water. They cannot resume taking water until streams have recovered above the protected level for at least 48 hours. You can read the list of companies affected here.
Resuming withdrawals could take awhile, because it looks like June’s rain “deficit”could turn into a July drought. In any normal June, Pennsylvania residents would see close to 3.9 inches of rain. Last month they measured less than 1.2 inches – a 2.7 inch deficit that doesn’t sound like a lot. Yet. But a warmer-than-usual June coupled with a hot, dry July could spell trouble for gas drillers looking for millions of gallons of water to drill each well.
Meanwhile, SRBC is seeking public comment on a new “Low Flow Protection Policy”they've proposed. These new guidelines, the agency believes, will protect against “adverse cumulative impacts” to water resources during times of low flows. The proposed policy, says SRBC, is more protective of the basin’s headwaters and other sensitive or “exceptional quality” settings. It would require a review for passby flows that takes into consideration basin-wide aquatic resources and conservation measures. It would also use hydrologic analyses and flow statistics bases on the USGS stream gaging network. And it would give SRBC the right to apply the policy to existing and approved projects when the continued withdrawal operations cause – or could cause – adverse environmental impacts.
Before you go, though, take a few minutes to comment on SRBC's proposed “Low Flow Protection Policy” - they've extended the comment period to July 16. Public comments may be submitted via the website, by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by mail. Written comments should be mailed to:Susquehanna River Basin Commission, 1721 North Front Street Harrisburg, PA 17102. You can find out more about the "Low Flow Protection Policy" at http://www.srbc.net/pubinfo/businessmeeting.htm