SRBC, Partners Issue First State Of Susquehanna River Report
This 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.
The 2010 report is comprised of 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.
“The Commission and its partners achieved what we had set out to do, which was to focus the project on assessing the basin’s water resources, not on ranking conditions” said SRBC’s Manager of Monitoring and Assessment, Jennifer Hoffman. “While water quality and other factors have undoubtedly improved in recent decades, our goal was to provide data and facts in a way that the public can relate to and so that people can draw their own conclusions about the overall state of the Susquehanna basin.”
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.
H.W. “Skip” Wieder of the Susquehanna Heartland Coalition, said, “The coalition is proud to be a partner on this project. The colleges and universities comprising the coalition are committed to this and other ongoing efforts to study the health of the Susquehanna watershed, including looking at how dissolved oxygen fluctuations, heavy metals and endocrine disruptors are affecting aquatic life.”
“The project is intended to provide a comprehensive assessment of river health, from crayfish, hellbenders, and brook trout to shad, algae and invertebrate communities,” said Dr. Benjamin Hayes, Director of the Susquehanna River Initiative, Bucknell Environmental Center. “Despite gradual improvements, the Susquehanna will continue to experience enormous pressure, calling for additional research, including on potential impacts from the development of natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale on the watershed, especially in its headwaters areas.”
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.
In addition to the details of the seven indicators, the 2010 report contains the criteria that were used to establish the indicators, has interesting factoids throughout, focuses on success stories and partnerships and includes an array of feature stories ranging from cumulative impact of water use and development, impact of mercury on human health to invasive aquatic organism.
A copy of the complete report is available online.
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