Last week at the Susquehanna Symposium at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and partners released the first-ever State of the Susquehanna report. The 2010 report covers the threats, opportunities, partnerships and successes in seven key areas influencing the Susquehanna River Basin’s water resource needs and conditions today.
There are two main components, a publication that provides a snapshot of seven indicators, and the web site that includes additional data, maps, information and feature stories submitted by a host of renowned scientists and authors who tell their part of the story of the Susquehanna basin.
The seven indicators are: Water Use and Development; Floods and Droughts; Stormwater; Abandoned Mine Drainage; Sediment and Nutrients; Human Health and Drinking Water Protection; and Habitat and Aquatic Resources. The 2010 report also highlights how the seven indicators in the Susquehanna watershed relate to the Chesapeake Bay.
SRBC’s project partners are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 3, which also funded the project, Bucknell University and the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies.
The 2010 State of the Susquehanna indicators:
- Water Use and Development (indicator #1) draws attention to the fact that the Susquehanna basin is rich in energy resources and that increased activity in the energy sector is driving new water use, including from new and upgraded coal-fired plants and nuclear power plants to drilling for natural gas.
- Floods and Droughts (indicator #2) points to the Susquehanna basin as being among the most flood-prone in the nation and showcases the nearly 25-year partnership that has successfully maintained and operated the Susquehanna Flood Forecast and Warning System.
- Stormwater (indicator #3) includes data showing the increase of stormwater runoff in the basin. Between 1990 and 2000, there was a 40 percent increase in impervious surfaces, while overall population in the basin in that same period grew by less than 8 percent. There are also data on projected urban development pressure in the Susquehanna basin.
- Abandoned Mine Drainage (indicator #4) describes this pollution source as the second largest and the most severe contributor to stream impairment – about 1,940 stream miles – in the basin. The indicator also showcases the Bear Run remediation project in Indiana County, Pa., as one of the several success stories within the 2010 State of the Susquehanna report.
- Sediment and Nutrients (indicator #5) identifies these two pollutants as the largest contributors to stream impairment – about 3,800 stream miles – in the basin, and describes the sources as varied as they are widespread, including from atmospheric deposition, fertilizer treatments on suburban lawns to impacts related to animal grazing.
- Human Health and Drinking Water Protection (indicator #6) identifies the major threats to the protection of human health and drinking water, including about 15 percent of the basin’s waters being listed as impaired, that fish consumption advisories are in place throughout the basin and that of the thousands of potential contaminants existing in the environment only about 90 are regulated through federal or state drinking water standards.
- Habitat and Aquatic Resources (indicator #7) lists the many benefits of healthy aquatic ecosystems including recreation activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, nature study, wildlife photography, bird watching and eco-tourism. The indicator also identifies the sources of pollution that threaten the basin’s aquatic resources and habitat, including nutrient runoff, abandoned mine drainage and discharges, habitat encroachment, invasive species and changes to land use.