Drinking Water

Residents of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area generally have the luxury of turning on the tap for cheap, pure water without worrying or even thinking about it. The reality would be much different without several decades of drought planning and preparation by the metropolitan area's water utilities and the ICPRB Section for Cooperative Operations for Water Supply on the Potomac (CO-OP). The CO-OP works with utilities to ensure the region has adequate raw water supplies from the Potomac, even in the face of growing demands. Learn more about CO-OP and Washington metropolitan area water supply.

Millions of people living in the Potomac River Basin are provided with safe drinking water every day. Meeting emerging challenges and ensuring a reliable supply for the future, however, requires vigilance and cooperation. By undertaking a collaborative approach, the unique Potomac Drinking Water Source Protection (DWSP) Partnership – almost two dozen water suppliers and government agencies – helps to ensure that people’s most basic need for clean, safe and abundant water is reliably met.

ICPRB is working with stakeholders and resource managers to investigate whether there are ways to operate North Branch reservoirs to better balance the many uses of the Potomac River. The reservoirs play a critical role in a maintaining water quality in the North Branch, and they augment Washington, D.C. water supply during times of drought. Over the years, recreational activities--whitewater boating, on-lake boating, and fishing--have become more and more popular in the North Branch region. It has become more of challenge to balance these interests when setting reservoir outflows, especially during times of drought. ICPRB is supporting this process by coordinating the North Branch Potomac River Advisory Committee.

Ground water is an important source of drinking water in the Potomac basin, as well as an important source of flow for the basin's rivers and streams. Population in the basin is expected to increase by approximately 20 percent from 2000 to 2020, and some areas, especially those within commuting distance of Washington, DC, are projected to grow much faster. ICPRB is working to develop a set of tools to help water managers assess the impact of future growth on ground water resources. Supported by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), ICPRB has constructed a groundwater/stream flow model of the upper Monocacy River basin. Learn more about Groundwater in the Potomac basin.

ICPRB assisted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) in its State Water Planning Effort effort by conducting water availability assessments for selected watersheds in the Pennsylvania portion of the Potomac River basin. The assessments were done in coordination with PADEP, USGS, and other river basin commissions. Results for the Potomac are being used by the State and by the Potomac Water Resources Regional Committee to help identify watersheds that merit designation as Critical Water Planning Areas.