The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary David Small reminded Delawareans that water conservation practices are a year-round action.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary David Small reminded Delawareans that water conservation practices are a year-round action contributing to the continued good health of the state’s water supplies.

This mindset is considered important in northern New Castle County, where Delawareans rely on several surface water streams and reservoirs for their public water supplies. These streams rely on rainfall in watersheds extending from Delaware into southeastern Pennsylvania.

Water conditions for northern Delaware were reported Nov. 21 during a teleconference with northern New Castle County water utilities. All utilities reported that demands were seasonally normal and that there is sufficient water supply at this time as demands are at their lowest of the year. John Barndt, DNREC Water Supply Section program manager, said that the Delaware Geological Survey reported that stream flows in northern New Castle County remain very low, and groundwater there continues declining toward below-normal levels. DNREC’s Water Supply Section called an emergency meeting of the state’s Water Supply Coordinating Council for Dec. 13 to discuss and assess the state’s water supply and how current conditions are affecting it.

Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and western New York are experiencing drought conditions that prompted the Delaware River Basin Commission, comprising those three states and Delaware, to vote unanimously to declare a basin-wide drought watch effective immediately. The DRBC resolution behind the drought watch called for encouraging all residents and business users of basin water supplies “to maximize water efficiency to preserve and protect the basin’s water supplies.” The resolution can be found at bit.ly/2fugCka.

Delaware State Climatologist Dan Leathers emphasized that the primary concern for northern Delaware is the deficit in precipitation experienced in the headwaters of the Christina River Basin, including the Red Clay, White Clay and Brandywine Creek watersheds. During the last six months, 75 to 90 percent of normal precipitation has fallen across these watersheds, with the northern portion of each watershed experiencing deficits of 50 to 75 percent of normal precipitation. In addition, during the last six months the temperature in the Christina Basin has averaged 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, making it the warmest such period since 1948. The high temperatures have increased evaporation and transpiration, worsening northern Delaware’s dry conditions.

Small said that reservoirs in northern Delaware, interconnections between the public water systems and use of aquifer storage and recovery and other enhancements were designed to allow northern Delaware to be more resilient to periodic extended dry weather events. Since the state’s Water Supply Coordinating Council was established in 1999, the state and water purveyors who help comprise the council have worked together to enhance New Castle County’s water supply by an additional 2 billion gallons of water. Nevertheless, wise water use and conservation of supplies are highly encouraged in Delaware.

Daily monitoring of water supply and demand conditions by water purveyors will continue in accordance with the plans established by the Water Supply Coordinating Council. Weekly meetings of the water agencies and utilities will be held until conditions return to normal, while the Water Supply Coordinating Council will be convened as necessary.