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November 6, 2006

Contact: Ian Michaels (718) 595-6600

New York City Announces Results of Its New Release Program: An Additional 28+ Billion Gallons Is Released From Delaware River Reservoirs

New program is designed to allow reservoirs to hold more water during major rain storms – lessening potential flooding

Commissioner Emily Lloyd of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today that since a new release program was implemented on September 22, the agency has released over 33 billion gallons of water from its Delaware River reservoirs – almost 29 billion gallons more than it would have under previous criteria.  Total releases from the Cannonsville, Pepacton and Neversink reservoirs for the same period without the new release program would have been just over 4 billion gallons.  These figures are as of Friday, November 3.

The program was developed by New York City in cooperation with New York State and has been approved by the other Delaware River states of Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey and with significant support from Congressman John Sweeney and local Delaware County officials.

New York City makes regular releases downstream into the Delaware River, as directed by the Delaware River Master, in order to maintain river levels downstream and to provide for fishery habitats.  Under the new program, in order to increase potential retention during storms, downstream releases may be increased to over 20 times normal when the total storage of those reservoirs exceeds 80 percent of capacity.  For example, at the Cannonsville Reservoir the normal downstream releases of 45 cubic feet per second (CFS) can increase to as much as 1,000 CFS under the new program.

The new program will be in place until May 31, 2007, at which time New York City expects to announce a more comprehensive program of adaptive reservoir management, currently under development with the Delaware River states.  Previous release programs at City reservoirs have also been time limited. 

Historically, releases have been made simply to meet flow targets at certain points in the river downstream.  But an adaptive management program will take numerous factors into account to determine downstream releases, including ground saturation, long-term weather forecasts and historical runoff into the reservoirs. 

Commissioner Lloyd said, “New York City’s reservoirs provide water for half the residents of New York State and for millions of people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  I am very pleased that the decree parties have reached agreement on a program that is consistent with our water supply mission, but also significantly enhances our reservoirs’ ability to retain stormwater and to lessen the effects of flooding.

“This agreement attempts to balance the various interests of areas downstream with the millions of people who rely on the Delaware River for drinking water, transportation and commerce.  This new release program will be most effective when paired with prudent planning by the downstream communities, such as steps to improve flood preparedness and a close examination of uses of the downstream flood plain.  I would like to thank Congressman Sweeney, Delaware County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Eisel and Town Supervisor Robert Homovich of Colchester for meeting with us and helping to create this program,” said Lloyd.

New York City’s water supply reservoirs were not designed as flood control reservoirs, and they operate differently, but even when full, the water supply reservoirs significantly decrease peak floods downstream by capturing floodwaters and releasing them slowly in a controlled manner through the reservoirs’ spillways.  This new release program is designed to create even more capacity for the reservoirs to lessen the effects of flooding during severe weather events.

The City has been working with the Delaware River states to find ways to use the reservoirs to decrease the severity of flooding downstream, and has initiated seasonal release programs for the last three winters.  The new program supersedes programs that were in place at the Pepacton and Neversink reservoirs which maintained voids in those reservoirs from December through March based on snowpack measurements and projected runoff from potential rainstorms.  The new program does however take existing snowpack into account when determining reservoir levels and downstream release rates.

Releases from the City’s Delaware River reservoirs are directed by the Delaware River Master in accordance with a 1954 U. S. Supreme Court consent decree.  Releases can also be dictated by the New York State DEC in accordance with the DRBC experimental fisheries program.  New York City cannot take unilateral action to increase or decrease the downstream releases from the City’s Delaware River reservoirs and must secure the approval of all the Delaware River states for any release modifications.

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) manages the City’s water supply, serving more than half the population of New York State with over one billion gallons of high-quality drinking water daily.  Nineteen reservoirs provide water to eight million City residents through a network of over 6,200 miles of water mains as well as to an additional one million consumers in four upstate counties.  DEP manages 14 in-City wastewater treatment plans and an additional nine treatment plants in the upstate watershed.  DEP carries out federal Clean Water Act rules and regulations, handles hazardous materials emergencies and toxic site remediation, oversees asbestos monitoring and removal, enforces the City’s air and noise codes, bills and collects on City water and sewer accounts, and manages city-wide water conservation programs.  DEP’s operations and investments translate into 1833 jobs in the West of Hudson watershed.


More Information

NYC Department of Environmental Protection
Public Affairs

59-17 Junction Boulevard
19th Floor
Flushing, NY 11373

(718) 595-6600