News

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News from Around the Basin – July 12, 2023

Finding the source of pollution and those working to fix it, learning to fish, understanding groundwater, and more, in this week’s Potomac News Reservoir.

Exploring Groundwater in the Chesapeake Bay

As the saying goes, “We can’t manage what we can’t measure.” ICPRB’s water resources scientist, Dr. Alimatou Seck, recently published a paper in Hydrogeology Journal that demonstrated the successful use of a large-scale integrated hydrologic model to evaluate groundwater storage dynamics in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Understanding groundwater dynamics is an important piece of the Bay restoration puzzle.

Potomac River Conditions

The USGS graph showing the current flow flush with the median flow at Point of Rocks is only telling part of the story. The northern half of Maryland has been placed under a Drought Watch due to low groundwater levels. The gap between current precipitation and the average precipitation is shrinking, but not very quickly. Much of the basin continues to be in moderate or severe drought status, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Current flow: 3410 cfs

Median flow: 3410 cfs

90 day precipitation: -2.0 inches

Fishing is the new Pickleball

Maybe it is only a coincidence that a bass rod is 6 feet long, but in 2020, the 6-feet social distancing recommendations led many people to try their hand at fishing. That year found a record number of anglers on the water.

The trend continues. According to the recent Special Report on Fishing from the Outdoor Foundation and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, 54.5 million people cast a rod in 2022. Last year saw a record number of female anglers, especially new participants. Additionally, over the last decade, Hispanic participation has increased by 45%.

If you want your kids or grandkids to enjoy the sport, start them young. According to the report, 86% of current anglers started fishing before they were 12 years old.

So, maybe you’re ready to put down that pickleball paddle and pick up a fishing pole? Here are some options to learn the craft in the Potomac watershed:

If you are just looking for a new place to catch the “BIG FISH” 🐟, takemefishing.org offers a map of local places to fish and boat.

Don’t forget to check out our weekly Fishing News from Around the Basin at the bottom of the newsletter for the latest news and information about fishing in the Potomac River watershed.

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News from Around the Basin – July 6, 2023

Click here to see the full Potomac News Reservoir – July 6. 2023.

July’s Water Supply Outlook

The July Water Supply Outlook by ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (CO-OP) takes a look at the DC Metro area’s summer water supply.

In the Washington metropolitan area, we anticipate a higher likelihood of water releases from the backup reservoirs during the summer and fall of 2023. Despite receiving some relief from heavy rains, the Potomac basin has experienced unusual dryness over the past few months, resulting in ongoing challenges with low stream flows, groundwater, and soil moisture.

Notably, July 4th marked the hottest day ever recorded on Earth, underscoring the necessity of regular reassessment of the current conditions.

Although the water flow in the Potomac River currently satisfies the region’s demands, comprehensive contingency plans have been established to prevent shortages in the event of low-flow conditions.

Click here to see the most recent Water Supply Outlook.

Potomac River Conditions

The current river flow is similar to the median. However, as we saw in the July Water Supply Outlook, we are still experiencing the impact of a dry winter and spring. The 90 day precipitation remains low at 2.7 inches below average.

Current flow: 3910 cfs

Median flow: 3640 cfs

Even when the river flow is low, there are areas that can look calm but are still treacherous. Unfortunately, drownings happen every year in the Potomac. Stay smart and safe by wearing a personal flotation device.

Fishing News on the Fly

If we lured you in with interesting articles, then cast your attention to the end of the newsletter where we’ll hook you in with the latest fishing news to help you tackle the weekend.

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July Water Supply Outlook Released

The monthly Water Supply Outlook by ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (CO-OP) has been released.

In the Washington metropolitan area, we anticipate a higher likelihood of water releases from the backup reservoirs during the summer and fall of 2023. Despite receiving some relief from heavy rains, the Potomac basin has experienced unusual dryness over the past few months, resulting in ongoing challenges with low stream flows, groundwater, and soil moisture.

Notably, July 4th marked the hottest day ever recorded on Earth, underscoring the necessity of regular reassessment of the current conditions.

Although the water flow in the Potomac River currently satisfies the region’s demands, comprehensive contingency plans have been established to prevent shortages in the event of low-flow conditions.

Click here to see the most recent Water Supply Outlook.

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News from Around the Basin – June 29, 2023

Click here to see the full Potomac News Reservoir – June 29, 2023.

Celebrating Safely

Many people will grab their boat, kayak, or paddleboard during this long weekend to spend time relaxing on the water. Here are a few tips to keep you safe:

⛈️ Check water levels and the weather before heading out.

📢 Let someone know your plans.

🦺 Wear a lifejacket.

👀 Avoid suspect water.

Safety is important both on and off the water. Drought conditions and elevated fire risks throughout the basin have officials urging everyone to think twice about their pyrotechnics display. Fireworks start over 19,000 fires each year. To keep from being part of the 2023 statistics, please leave the fireworks to the professionals.

From all of us at ICPRB, we hope you have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Potomac River Conditions

When it rains, it pours. Literally. The Potomac watershed received an average of 1.8 inches of rain since last week’s newsletter, with the most rain seen in the southern reaches of the watershed. The river flow at Point or Rocks quickly surpassed the median flow. The river’s flashiness is on display once again, as the yellow peak heads south.

Even with all the rain, the Potomac watershed is still 3.1 inches below the 3-month average. As the NWS Mid Atlantic River Forecast Center map shows, precipitation averages are low across the Chesapeake Bay. At least there was a perk to our dry spring, a smaller dead zone in the Bay. (Graph: USGS Gage at Point of Rocks)

Current flow: 6440 cfs

Median flow: 4460 cfs

90 Day Precipitation: 3.1 inches below average

Reminder: We’re Hiring!

Applications are due tomorrow for the Outreach Program Manager position, so get those resumes in soon!

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News from Around the Basin – June 22, 2023

Find information on the continued historical low flows, US Navy sued, mussels, eels, and more in this week’s Potomac News Reservoir…

Rain returns, but we’re not out of the (dry) woods just yet

If you caught last week’s newsletter, you saw that we started actively monitoring drought conditions on June 12 due to low flows in the Potomac River. Staff in ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (CO-OP) were able to stop drought monitoring 5 days later after subsequent rain storms across the basin.NWS Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center 9 day forecast.

The Potomac River is known as a “flashy” river, meaning it can rise and fall suddenly. That has been particularly evident over these past few weeks when we went from drought monitoring to possible minor flooding in only a week or so. If we get the upcoming several inches of rain predicted by the NWS Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center, some areas of the Potomac basin will experience flow levels of minor to moderate flooding.

Even with the rain, we may continue to experience a hydrological moderate drought in the watershed. See the video by NBC4’s meteorologist Ryan Miller for an explanation of the difference between a hydrological and meteorological drought in the Potomac watershed. Both the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and officials in Front Royal, Virginia, have recently made the call for voluntary water conservation.

According to our Director of CO-OP Operations, Dr. Cherie Schultz, “If we get 2 inches of rain in the next few days, it is not going to erase the [rain] deficit but we will be out of extremely dry conditions and it will help. We still face the likelihood of drought operations this summer unless we continue to get more rain events.”

The graph above shows Potomac River’s adjusted flows at Little Falls (black line) headed in the right direction, but still on the low end.NWS Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center 9 day forecast.

What would happen to our water supply during a drought? The DC Metro area is well protected due to careful planning and coordination among ICPRB and our partners. See a video of Dr. Schultz’s presentation during yesterday’s quarterly business meeting on the status of the current drought, how it relates to historical droughts, and what would happen if flows drop very low.

Current Potomac River Conditions

Several inches of rain is predicted over the next few days and should bring us closer to the median (gray line) for this time of year. However, despite the expected rain, we will most likely remain below average. (Graph: USGS gage at Point of Rocks)

Current flow: 2280 cfs

Median flow: 4970 cfs

90 Day Precipitation:

3.6 inches below average

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Drought Operations are Suspended

ICPRB staff is suspending drought monitoring operations.

According to US National Weather Service Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center, up to 1 inch of rain has fallen in the northwestern corner of the basin. Flows have risen at the North Branch Potomac River near Cumberland gage. More rain is expected over the next 3 days. We expect flows to continue to stay above the 2000 cfs threshold for drought monitoring.

ICPRB staff will continue to monitor river flows.

Although ICPRB is not conducting drought monitoring, we always encourage people to be mindful of everyday water use.

Here are a few tips for ways to be water wise:

🚽 Fix leaky pipes.

🚿 Take shorter showers.

🌱 Choose native plants for your landscaping.

🥕 Capture and reuse water from activities like washing vegetables or waiting for the water to warm up. This water can be used to water plants or to clean.

🚰 Brushing teeth? Washing hands? Doing dishes? Turn the faucet off when you are not actively using the water during these daily activities.

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News from Around the Basin – June 15, 2023

Click here to see the full Potomac News Reservoir.

ICPRB Begins Daily Drought Monitoring

On Monday the low river flow activated daily drought monitoring by ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply on the Potomac (CO-OP). This happens when the gage at Point of Rocks, MD, dips below 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). During active drought monitoring, CO-OP staff provide a daily update to partners about the flow, weather, and water withdrawals within the basin.

The graph shows Potomac River’s adjusted flows at Little Falls (black line) dropping into the lowest we’ve seen in recorded history.

In the case of really low flows in the Potomac, CO-OP staff will work with partners to coordinate releases from upstream reservoirs (Little Seneca and Jennings Randolph) to supplement the flow and provide sufficient water to downstream water suppliers.

Learn more about ICPRB CO-OP’S Drought Monitoring and Operations > > >

Check out our recent Facebook post to see the graph with data about how common it is for the river flow to reach the drought monitoring threshold.

At this point, we do not predict a call for voluntary water restrictions for folks in the Potomac watershed. However, it is always a good idea to conserve water, especially during the dryer summer months. Small changes in daily habits can lead to big changes in water use.

Simple actions you can do to conserve water:

🚽 Fix leaky pipes.
🚿 Take shorter showers.
🌱 Choose native plants for your landscaping.
🥕 Capture and reuse water from activities like washing vegetables or waiting for the water to warm up. This water can be used to water plants or to clean.
🚰 Brushing teeth? Washing hands? Doing dishes? Turn the faucet off when you are not actively using the water during these daily activities.

Current Potomac River Conditions

The river flow is slightly above the level that triggers drought monitoring. However, CO-OP staff will continue daily monitoring as the level is relatively low for this time of year. Monitoring will continue until a significant increase in flow occurs.

Only 0.25 inches of rain is forecasted for the basin over the next few days according to the NWS Mid-Atlantic River Forecast Center (MARFC). It is expected the precipitation deficit will continue to increase over coming weeks. (Graph: USGS gage at Point of Rocks.)
Current flow: 2090 cfs

Median flow: 5540 cfs

90 Day Precipitation: 4.7 inches below average

Upcoming ICPRB Business Meeting

The ICPRB will virtually hold its third quarter business meeting on June 21, 2023. Commissioners will be updated on ICPRB’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Statement, the successful Comprehensive Plan 5-year review process, and discuss the process for revising the Strategic Plan. The public is invited to view the virtual meeting. You can reply to this email for more information on how to attend.

ICPRB in the Community

Join us this Saturday for a meet and greet with creek critters at the Frederick Master Gardener’s Earth Awareness Day in Frederick, MD.

We are hiring!

We are hiring for an Outreach Program Manager position. The application period closes on June 30. Learn more on our Jobs page > > >

Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out our Events Calendar for fun activities!

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Drought Monitoring Status: Active

ICPRB’s Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (CO-OP) has began active drought monitoring due to a low river flow.

When the Potomac River flow at Point of Rocks, Maryland, dips below 2,000 cubic feet per second, ICPRB initiates active drought monitoring. During this time, ICPRB staff sends daily reports to stakeholders and partners with data about flow, weather, and water-use.

The reports are available on the CO-OP Data Portal.

Learn more about ICPRB CO-OP’S Drought Monitoring and Operations>>>

Current flow at Potomac River at Point of Rocks, MD – 01638500:

USGS Point of Rocks Gage

The bridge at Point of Rocks
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Media From Around the Basin – June 8, 2023

Click here to view the Potomac River Reservoir in its entirety.

June’s Water Supply Outlook

During the summer and fall of 2023, the Washington metropolitan area faces an increased probability of releasing water from backup reservoirs. This increased likelihood is due to a combination of factors: a current dry spell, a 6.5-inch precipitation deficit over the past 12 months, and low groundwater levels, resulting in unusually low flows in the region.

The ICPRB staff will actively monitor the changing water supply conditions in the basin, focusing on the USGS Gage stream flows at Point of Rocks, Maryland, the location of the daily water supply monitoring threshold. If drought conditions develop, the local drinking water reservoirs at Jennings Randolph and Little Seneca, which are currently full, will prevent water supply shortages if low-flow conditions persist.

In the case of a drought, the region has contingency plans in place to manage water supply shortages. Learn more in the June Water Supply Outlook >>> 

Current Potomac River Conditions

The river flow continues to dip further down at 59% of the median for this time of year. Rainfall for the basin is well below average. Unfortunately, the NWS Mid-Atlantic River Forecast Center (MARFC) forecasts little-to-no rain in the Potomac watershed over the next few days and beyond.

Current flow: 3610 cfs

Median flow: 6160 cfs

90 Day Precipitation: 4.7 inches below average

We are hiring!

We are hiring for an Outreach Program Manager position. The application period closes on June 30.

Learn more on our Jobs page >>>

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ICPRB Business Meeting will be held on June 21, 2023

The ICPRB will virtually hold its third quarter business meeting on June 21, 2023. Commissioners will be updated on ICPRB’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Statement, the successful Comprehensive Plan 5-year review process, and discuss the process for revising the Strategic Plan.

The public is invited to view the virtual meeting. Please Contact Us for more information on how to attend.