Entry Thumbnail

Press Release: Drought Exercise

Drought Exercise a Key to Protecting Metropolitan Drinking Water

Rockville, MD

Although the region’s streamflows currently are above normal, the region’s major water suppliers and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin Section for Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (CO-OP) will exercise their ability to respond to severe drought conditions during a multi-day exercise beginning November 16-18, 2020.

The exercises are a way to practice operations under severe drought conditions, when the normally independent utilities work cooperatively with CO-OP so that each utility can meet the demands of their customers while minimizing the need for restrictions. The three major water suppliers draw the bulk of their raw water from the Potomac. A drought of record could drop the flow of the river below what is needed to meet high summertime drinking water demands. When riverflow and other data indicate a coming shortage, CO-OP can guide Potomac use among the utilities and manage releases of stored water to meet demands. The Jennings Randolph reservoir on the North Branch Potomac holds billions of gallons of water that can be released downstream to meet utility demands and environmental flow concerns. The much smaller Little Seneca Reservoir in Montgomery County, Md., is used to adjust river flow in the short term as a release from Randolph Reservoir can take about nine days to reach the metropolitan suppliers’ intakes.

The exercise uses simulated low flows that allow all parties to practice daily reporting procedures, internal communications, and releases of stored water.

This year’s exercise will focus on honing the communications channels between the utilities, CO-OP, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, divisions of which operate both as a metropolitan water supplier and operator of Randolph Reservoir. Another focus is the modeling that incorporates drinking water demand data and forecasts from utilities, precipitation, and stream flow data to determine the timing and volume of reservoir releases. In addition, the exercise will include an actual release from Little Seneca Reservoir, and improved data reporting systems.

These procedures are honed by the annual exercise, and have resulted in a very resilient drinking water system for the Washington metropolitan area’s more than four-million residents who rely on the Potomac as their primary drinking source. More information about the metropolitan water supply system and CO-OP are available on the ICPRB WEBSITE .

For more information on the exercise, contact Curtis Dalpra,; 301.274.8107

Entry Thumbnail

ICPRB Working Cooperatively to Improve Cleanup Accuracy

A new study by ICPRB biologist Claire Buchanan and other authors has provided an improved method for assessing nutrient levels in the surface waters of the Chesapeake Bay and will provide an improved way to judge the effects of nutrient reduction best management practices. The regional Chesapeake Bay cleanup is based on reducing nutrients and sediments to restore the waterway’s health. Excessive nutrient levels contribute to algae blooms that cause a succession of water quality problems. Buchanan teamed with scientists from the University of Maryland, the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Chesapeake Research Consortium to produce Nutrient limitation of phytoplankton in Chesapeake Bay: Development of an empirical approach for water-quality management.

The model can help direct future efforts in nutrient reduction through improved modeling that can increase effectiveness and reduce costs. Future research will focus on the Potomac and other bay tidal tributaries.

Entry Thumbnail

ICPRB welcomes Bay Executive Council Statement on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

The ICPRB welcomes the Statement in Support of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice signed on August 18, 2020 by the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) Executive Council, which includes all parties to the ICPRB Compact.  As a longstanding CBP participant and partner, the ICPRB fully shares the commitments articulated in the above-referenced Statement, which echo and amplify references in the ICPRB’s Manual of Operations and the recently adopted ICPRB Revised Strategic Plan for 2020-2023 to a diverse workforce, broader outreach, marginalized/vulnerable communities and environmental justice.

Entry Thumbnail

ICPRB Celebrates 80 Years

The commissioners and staff of ICPRB celebrate as 2020 marks our 80th anniversary of protecting and preserving the Potomac River basin.

These 80 years have seen incredible change in the Potomac basin, and much has been accomplished by ICPRB and many others to return the Potomac to a resource that its residents so gratefully use and rely on for drinking water, recreation, commercial/agricultural use, and a way to appreciate nature.

The commission will be telling its story during the year in a number of ways, including a social media “Throwback Thursday” series on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Each Thursday throughout 2020, ICPRB posted a photo that highlighted the history of the river and the efforts to protect and preserve it throughout the past 80 years. Join in the conversation on social media by using #Potomac80.

Below is a slideshow of all the social media posts.

[timeline src=”″ width=”80%” height=”650″ font=”Default” lang=”en” version=”timeline3″ ]


Anniversary Celebration Brochure

The Anniversary Celebration Brochure highlights the accomplishments of ICPRB over the last 80 years. Additionally, after 8 decades of success, we look to future decades with the fourteen recommendations from the Potomac River Basin Water Resources Comprehensive Plan.

Entry Thumbnail

Is the Potomac Getting ‘Dirtier and Dirtier and Dirtier’?

A statement from Michael Nardolilli, Executive Director of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin:

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has generated lots of discussion about the Potomac River in a recent interview that included his belief that the Potomac River has gotten ”Dirtier and dirtier and dirtier and dirtier. I go down there and that litter is left almost exclusively by immigrants, who I’m sure are good people, but nobody in our country—.”

The Potomac is certainly cleaner than it was 30 years ago in almost every respect. However, stormwater, and the litter it carries, remains a major impact to the Potomac. Stormwater collects litter from everywhere in the landscape and dumps it in waterways. Research suggests that trash in our rivers is a long-term problem throughout society and is not limited to any particular socioeconomic or racial group.

Research shows the large scope of the problem and assessed efforts to combat the issue, both in the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay cleanups. The annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup held every spring since 1989 brings thousands of volunteers to area waterways, showing the region’s strength of commitment. Many great organizations organize cleanup events throughout the year and we encourage basin residents to join them. These cleanup are underpinned by research showing that trash in our waterways is a problem created across social and economic boundaries.

Much progress has been made and the Potomac River is cleaner than it has been in decades. Litter is a problem, but it is not the only threat to our Nation’s River and it is certainly not linked with any specific group of people. Nutrients, sediment, and the medical and industrial chemicals placed in the river each day also contribute to the pollution problem. But even with these threats, the resilience of the river and its people is evident. Each day, the river provides clean drinking water, recreational opportunities, and wildlife habitat to those who are lucky enough to live within its watershed.