Recent enhancements to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s Consumptive Use Mitigation Policy may impact water usage for commercial users in central Pennsylvania. In its Resolution No. 2020-02, the Commission provides flexibility for facilities paying its water usage fee by enhancing the water-use mitigation practices in Consumptive Use Mitigation Policy 2020-01, which specifies consumptive use from certain structures like ponds and basins.
Water use in Pennsylvania is managed across several different agencies at both the federal and state levels. At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) creates and enforces regulations to ensure that Americans have clean air, land, and water. At the state level, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) Office of Water Programs administers and oversees departmental programs involving surface and groundwater quantity and quality planning, and soil and water conservation. While these two agencies provide important services, they do not manage the amount of water used by the public.
The Role of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission
For consumers in the Susquehanna River Drainage Basin, generally the area including south central New York state, central Pennsylvania, and northeastern Maryland, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) manages all groundwater and surface water. The SRBC’s mission is to “enhance public welfare through comprehensive planning, water supply allocation, and management of the water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin.”
Essentially, residential and commercial users in the Basin who want to consume 20,000 gallons of water or more per day, on a 30-day average, must apply to the SRBC. The Commission defines consumptive use as “water that is lost to the Basin from groundwater, surface water, or other sources.” This loss may occur in a variety of ways, including through evaporation, transpiration due to irrigation, incorporation into manufactured products, or injection underground, regardless of the type of water source.
The Commission requires that consumptive users mitigate their water usage to reduce its impacts on water supply, water quality, and the environment during low-flow periods like droughts.
Consumptive Use Mitigation Policy 2020-01
The Commission created the Consumptive Use Mitigation Policy 2020-01, which revises certain on-site structures like ponds and basins, to meet its goals of:
- Improving low-flow management.
- Providing reliable water supply during droughts.
- Expanding affordable mitigation options to water users.
- Promoting innovative partnerships for water-use mitigation projects.
Additionally, the policy clarifies that evaporation from these on-site structures constructed for the purpose of supplying mitigation water or reducing or dampening withdrawal rates are not subject to consumptive use mitigation requirements. This means that evaporation from qualifying structures are not included in that project’s consumptive use calculation, and existing projects that currently include evaporation from an eligible on-site structure will realize a reduced consumptive-use mitigation fee.
Evaporation from on-site structures that meet either of the two conditions below are no longer included in consumptive-use calculations:
- Structures used for the purpose of supplying mitigation water, such as storing and releasing water to meet mitigation requirements.
- Structures used for the purpose of reducing or dampening the project’s withdrawal rate, such as pooled water behind an impoundment which partially lessens the intensity of the rate of withdrawal to a flowing stream.
Enhancements to the SRBC Consumptive Use Mitigation Policy
After determining that exempting pond evaporation losses from mitigation requirements would promote the use of storage and expand options for achieving on‐site mitigation, the Commission adopted Resolution No. 2020‐02. In addition to exempting pond evaporation losses from the mitigation requirement, the updated policy reduces fees in exchange for certain water conservation practices.
The policy now features new options for water users to meet mitigation requirements, including:
- Lowering the former 90‐day storage standard to 45 days.
- Changing the definition of discontinuance from no water usage to allowing usage up to 20,000 gallons per day.
- Receiving a fee credit for water‐saving practices.
The Commission estimates that implementation of these changes will initially save more than $500,000 annually to qualifying projects in the Basin.
If you have questions or concerns about this or other water-related issues, BAI Group can help. For over 30 years, BAI Group has assisted private industry and government agencies with groundwater-related issues including leaking underground storage tanks, remediation, water supply permitting, groundwater sampling, and testing. Contact us today to learn more about our groundwater services.