Drinking Water

Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin

Residents of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area generally have the luxury of turning on the tap for cheap, safe drinking 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 ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Operations for Water Supply on the Potomac (CO-OP). 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 Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership (DWSPP)—a voluntary effort of 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.

Through both CO-OP and ICPRB’s role within DWSPP, ICPRB notifies downstream utilities in the event of a spill of hazardous materials and estimates travel times to the relevant intakes. Learn more about ICPRB’s role in spill response.

ICPRB is working with stakeholders and resource managers to operate North Branch reservoirs to better balance the many uses of the Potomac River. The reservoirs play a critical role in 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 a 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.

ICPRB assisted the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Pa. DEP) in its State Water Planning 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 Pa. DEP, U.S. Geological Survey, and other river basin commissions. Results for the assessments have been used by the State and by the Potomac Water Resources Regional Committee to help identify watersheds that merit designation as Critical Water Planning Areas.