The Potomac River flow is dropping and with little rain in the forecast, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin is ramping up Drought Operations, the commission announced last Friday, Aug. 25.
The staff of the commission’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply on the Potomac (CO-OP) announced the flow of the Potomac River has reached a low significant enough to start drought contingencies.
The staff uses river flow forecasts to determine whether changes in operations are needed to meet upcoming water demands. These include releases from upstream reservoirs, Jennings Randolph and Little Seneca, to augment Potomac River flow.
According to Dr. Schultz, Director of the CO-OP, “Today we are initiating CO-OP Drought Operations, per the Water Supply Coordination Agreement of 1982.” According to the agreement, drought operations are triggered when flow in the Potomac River at Little Falls, plus Washington metropolitan area Potomac withdrawals, is projected to be less than twice the projected withdrawals for any of the next five days.
The Potomac River supplies 78% of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area’s water, with public water supply intakes located in the river just upstream of the city. During drought, water from three upstream reservoirs can be released if necessary to increase river flow. Public water suppliers in the region use the Potomac River as a source of raw water and distribute treated water to homes, businesses, and critical government facilities. Combined, they serve five million residents and over three million workers in the District and surrounding Maryland and Virginia jurisdictions. The region depends on water for use by residents and workers, use by hospitals and other medical facilities, fire suppression, and cooling water for industrial air conditioning systems
Drought monitoring is not uncommon for the drier months of fall. There was indication of an especially dry summer to come when earlier this