News

Water Supply Outlook

May Water Supply Outlook

Summary/Conclusions:

There is below normal probability of releases from the Washington metropolitan area’s back-up water supply reservoirs for the 2015 summer and fall seasons. Generally, the use of Jennings Randolph and Little Seneca reservoirs is triggered by low flows brought about by a combination of low summer precipitation and low groundwater levels. According to MARFC’s Water Resource Outlook for the southern portion of the Middle Atlantic there has been enough precipitation to offset any long-term dry weather conditions in the Potomac basin. At present, there is sufficient flow in the Potomac River to meet Washington metropolitan area’s water demands without augmentation from upstream reservoirs. In the event that low-flow conditions do develop, the metro area is well-protected from a water supply shortage because of carefully designed drought-contingency plans.

ICPRB’s Low Flow Outlook:

There is a 6 to 11 percent conditional probability that natural Potomac flow will drop below 600- to 700-million gallons per day (MGD) at Little Falls through December 31 of this year; at these flow levels, water supply releases from Jennings Randolph and Little Seneca reservoirs may occur. Releases occur when predicted flow is less than demand plus a required flow-by. Demand ranges from 400 to 700 MGD during the summer months and the minimum flow-by at Little Falls is 100 MGD. Note that natural flow is defined as observed flow at the Little Falls gage plus total Washington metropolitan Potomac withdrawals, with an adjustment made to remove the effect of North Branch reservoir releases on stream flow.

The conditional probability is estimated by analyzing the historical stream flow records and giving consideration to recent stream flow values, precipitation totals for the prior 12 months, current groundwater levels, and the current Palmer Drought Index. Past years in which watershed conditions most closely resemble current conditions are weighted more heavily in the determination of conditional probability. The historical, or unconditional, probability is based on an analysis of the historical record without weighting for current conditions. The conditional probability of 6 to 11 percent compares to a historical probability of 8 to 15 percent and is considered the more reliable indicator.

Learn more about the Water Supply Outlook.

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Seasonal Natural Resources Technician needed

Natural Resources Technician / Intern

The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) is searching for a Natural Resources Technician / Intern to assist with seasonal aquatic research projects. This is a temporary/seasonal, per-diem position tentatively scheduled to begin May 15 and end on November 15, 2015. The position will assist ICPRB’s Living Resources and Aquatic Habitats programs in several projects. Duties will include outdoor research on streams and rivers, programmatic assignments, and office tasks such as photo processing and data entry. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in the Biological or Environmental Sciences, or other related fields, or be graduating spring 2015. Current graduate students encouraged to apply. Experience performing aquatic assessments preferred but not necessary, including the use of in-situ water quality probes, collection of water chemistry samples, collection and identification of aquatic biota. Training and certification in swift-water rescue, scuba, or CPR desirable. Work may require overnight travel and backcountry camping. Applicants should be able to lift 50 lbs and be comfortable working in swift-moving streams and rivers.

Send resume to: ICPRB (NR Technician/Intern), 30 W. Gude Drive, Suite 450, Rockville, Md 20850 or via email to bpark@icprb.org. No phone calls please. Applicant deadline is May 7, 2015. ICPRB is an interstate governmental agency, EOE.

Water Supply Outlook

April Water Supply Outlook

(Download PDF)

Summary/Conclusions:
There is below normal probability of releases from the Washington metropolitan area’s back-up water supply reservoirs for the 2015 summer and fall seasons. Generally, the use of Jennings Randolph and Little Seneca reservoirs is triggered by low flows brought about by a combination of low summer precipitation and low groundwater levels. According to MARFC’s Water Resource Outlook for the southern portion of the Middle Atlantic there has been enough precipitation to offset some of the developing dry weather conditions in the Potomac basin. If precipitation continues to be below normal, however, degradation in the outlook may occur. At present, there is sufficient flow in the Potomac River to meet the Washington metropolitan area’s water demands without augmentation from upstream reservoirs. In the event that low-flow conditions do develop, the metro area is well protected from a water supply shortage because of carefully designed drought-contingency plans.

ICPRB’s Low Flow Outlook:
There is a 5 to 10 percent conditional probability that natural Potomac flow will drop below 600 to 700 million gallons per day (MGD) at Little Falls through December 31 of this year; at these flow levels, water supply releases from Jennings Randolph and Little Seneca reservoirs may occur. Releases occur when predicted flow is less than demand plus a required flow-by. Demand ranges from 400 to 700 MGD during the summer months and the minimum flow-by at Little Falls is 100 MGD. Note that natural flow is defined as observed flow at the Little Falls gage plus total Washington metropolitan Potomac withdrawals, with an adjustment made to remove the effect of North Branch reservoir releases on stream flow.

The conditional probability is estimated by analyzing the historical stream flow records and giving consideration to recent stream flow values, precipitation totals for the prior 12 months, current groundwater levels, and the current Palmer Drought Index. Past years in which watershed conditions most closely resemble current conditions are weighted more heavily in the determination of conditional probability. The historical, or unconditional, probability is based on an analysis of the historical record without weighting for current conditions. The conditional probability of 5 to 10 percent compares to a historical probability of 8 to 15 percent and is considered the more reliable indicator.

Learn more about the Water Supply Outlook.

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What is ICPRB doing for the Chesapeake Bay restoration?

ICPRB works with federal, state, and local partners to help achieve many of the goals and outcomes described in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement. Organized by the Outcomes listed in the Agreement, ICPRB’s activities include:
  • Forage Fish and Fish Passage Outcomes. For 20 years, ICPRB has been actively engaged in the restoration of American shad in the Potomac River and other Chesapeake tributaries and the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers have achieved their Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission population targets. ICPRB is advising the states on shad restoration in other tributaries and is a member of Bay Program workgroups for these outcomes.
  • Stream Health Outcome. ICPRB is developing one of the principal measures that the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) will use to measure stream health for this outcome.
  • 2017 and 2025 Watershed Implementation Plans Outcomes. ICPRB is part of the team developing the Phase 6 Chesapeake Bay Model, which is the key tool that will be used to assign pollutant load allocations to different land types and jurisdictions and to track progress in meeting pollution reduction goals.
  • Water Quality Standards Attainment and Monitoring Outcome. ICPRB is involved in building and maintaining the monitoring databases at the CBP and uses its expertise to analyze those data to determine status and trends of water quality and living resources parameters.
  • Citizen Stewardship, Local Leadership, Student Environmental Literacy, and Sustainable Schools, Outcomes. ICPRB runs several workshop and training programs for teachers and students. These include:
    • Watershed Connections workshops for teachers, where groups of teachers build table-top watershed models using common materials. The models are then used by students to explore how changes in land use affect water quality, soil erosion, and the spread of contaminants, and how best management practices can address problems.
    • Assessments of school grounds so that students and teachers can improve their schools through installation of appropriate best management practices. The assessment is performed in a classroom setting.
    • Stream Monitoring/Ecology programs. Outreach to schools to help them assess their local stream. This pilot project will result in monthly lesson plans that can be used by teachers in subsequent years.
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What does ICPRB do to address toxic spill threats?

On February 16, a train including tank cars carrying crude oil derailed with some of the cars dropping into the Kanawha River in West Virginia. Although not in the Potomac basin, this event is a reminder that accidental spills of toxic materials are an ever present risk to human health and the environment. Of particular concern are events that threaten drinking water. In the metro Washington area, 75% of drinking water comes from the Potomac River. Across the basin there are 77 public water supply systems with surface water intakes. When spills occur, local emergency responders, state emergency management agencies, and federal agencies mobilize quickly to protect public health and minimize environmental impacts. For spills into the Potomac River and its major tributaries, ICPRB has a role in emergency response and on a continuing basis works with other agencies to maintain and even improve preparedness.

Spill Emergency Response

When notified of a spill ICPRB’s emergency response role is to alert downstream water utilities and water management agencies that a spill has occurred. Using ICPRB’s Emergency River Spill Model, the staff calculates contaminant concentrations and travel times to water intakes and share that information with the utilities and agencies.  The spill model can calculate travel times for the Potomac River mainstem from Cumberland to Little Falls, plus the Shenandoah, South Branch Potomac, and Monocacy rivers, and Antietam and Conococheague creeks. Staff members are trained to run the spill model and carry out our spill communication procedures and they share responsibility for responding to an event at any time. Every year, spill events occur that turn out to be insignificant threats to water supply but provide regular opportunities for practicing our spill response procedures.

Spill Protection Planning

ICPRB is working with government agencies and utilities to improve our knowledge of spill risks and improve preparedness for spill events. The work is generally under the umbrella of the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership (DWSPP). ICPRB collaborated with other agencies in planning and executing spill exercises in 2008, 2012, and an upcoming exercise in June of this year. With each of these exercises the participating agencies gain a better understanding of the threats and identify gaps in response procedures that need to be addressed.

Prompted by a series of spill events in early 2014 (storage tank failure in Charleston, West Virginia; train derailment into the James River, Virginia; coal ash release into the Dan River, North Carolina), ICPRB began discussions with EPA Region 3 about updating the District of Columbia Source Water Assessment Plan (D.C. SWAP). A new D.C. SWAP has relevance to the entire Potomac basin upstream of Washington because the entire watershed is D.C.’s source water area and an inventory of threats to D.C. water supply can provide an inventory of threats to other water utilities in the basin. At the quarterly DWSPP meeting on February 24, the EPA representative said they hope the new DC SWAP will be “a model SWAP” for the nation.

Also in 2014, but on a separate track, the MWCOG received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to undertake a variety of water security tasks, including an inventory of spill threats to drinking water for the metro Washington area. ICPRB and DWSPP participate in the planning for both projects.

Stay Informed

Looking to stay informed of spills in the Potomac River basin? Sign up for our Newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the updates.

An image of an icy river. A large military ship is in the background.

Road Salts & Water Quality

While a winter snow can lead to warm and cozy day at home, the de-icing materials used to keep traffic flowing can be negatively affecting water quality. This is especially true when the products are applied incorrectly or flow with runoff into nearby streams. Impacts are not isolated to the winter months. The road salt’s chloride can be stored in soil and groundwater only to be released into streams throughout the rest of the year. Chronic and acute chloride levels can harm both plant and animal life in and along streams. Additionally, high sodium content in sources of drinking water can lead to taste and odor challenges for water suppliers and be an issue for individuals restricted to a low-sodium diet.

To minimize the water quality impacts and maintain safe roads, some communities are exploring alternatives to road salts and changing application procedures around high quality and sensitive streams. Learn more about alternative products and application methods from the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership and the Chesapeake Bay Program.

For more on information on increasing concentrations of chloride in U.S. streams, read “River chloride trends in snow-affected urban watersheds: increasing concentrations outpace urban growth rate and are common among all seasons,” from the U.S. Geological Survey. ICPRB works to address this issue through the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership.

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Water Resources Scientist Position Announcement

  • Salary: Commensurate with education and experience
  • Job type: Full time
  • Categories: water resources, hydrology, watershed modeling, water supply management
  • Preferred Education: PhD

The Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) is an interstate compact commission whose mission is to protect the water and associated land resources of the Potomac basin.  ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (CO-OP) provides support to the three major water suppliers in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, including long-term planning and coordination of water supply operations during droughts. ICPRB’s office is located in Rockville, Maryland.

Job description:
ICPRB’s CO-OP Section seeks a talented problem-solver to assist in the development of its real-time Low Flow Forecast System and to participate in the full range of its other activities, including water demand and availability forecasting, development of operations support and planning tools, communications with stakeholders and ICPRB member jurisdictions, and real-time operations in the event of drought. The successful candidate will have excellent technical skills, the ability to communicate effectively and collaborate with partners, and past involvement in efforts consistent with ICPRB’s mission. Familiarity with hydrologic and watershed modeling is desirable.

Requirements:

  • A Masters of Science, or preferably a PhD, in a water resources-related science, engineering, or physics
  • Experience conducting statistical analyses, including work in the R programming environment
  • Experience developing mathematical models for complex systems; knowledge of differential equations is desirable
  • Experience using a variety of programming languages and databases systems; past use of Python, and PostgreSQL, and experience with the Linux operating system is desirable
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Demonstrated commitment to environmental stewardship and collaborative management of resources

New graduates are encouraged to apply; salary will be commensurate with education and experience. ICPRB offers an excellent benefits package and is an Equal Opportunity Employer that strives to maintain a diverse workforce.

Please send an electronic copy of cover letter, resume, and salary requirements to coop-job@icprb.org by 5 PM on March 15, 2015.

Download PDF of job description.