In 2014, a groundbreaking study revealed that the Upper Delaware River has the potential to generate significant economic value to the region when river flows and water temperatures are at levels that optimize recreational opportunities such as fishing and boating. The report also demonstrated how improved water releases from the Delaware River basin reservoirs could substantially increase economic revenues for the region.
This week, the findings of that report came into crystal clear resolution as record- breaking low flows throughout the upper river system have chased away visitors in droves because they cannot enjoy river related recreational activities under current conditions.
“The low water has negatively affected my business in an enormous way, and the season has only just started. Over the past few days my customer base virtually disappeared. The people are not coming. My revenues are down and based on conversations I’m having with other business owners in the area, they are suffering in the same way. Something needs to be done,” said Theresa Allen, owner and operator of the Hancock Liquor Store based in the village of Hancock, NY
Low water inflows into the Delaware River basin reservoirs have resulted in severely limited amounts of water being released from the reservoirs, and record-breaking low water levels in the rivers. Low water makes it difficult and often impossible to float a boat of any kind down the river, and causes water temperatures to rise rapidly, posing grave threats to the habitat of the unique cold water ecosystem.
“Improved water releases can soften the blow when these kinds of weather patterns challenge the Upper Delaware River watershed, and this should be a resource management goal. Low inflow conditions, coupled with long range forecasts of continued dry weather over the next 12 months, are going to present a real challenge for everyone this season,” said Garth Pettinger of NY Trout Unlimited.
“Our ability to mitigate the effects of these conditions, and adapt to them, will be critical. To this end we have initiated calls for improved water releases, and a reduction in the disproportional reliance on the Delaware system for drinking water diversions. We’ve also requested that a formal thermal relief program be included in the next water management plan, and for directed releases to be distributed between the three rivers,” said Jeff Skelding, Executive Director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River.
Friends of the Upper Delaware River and NY Trout Unlimited are members of the Delaware Watershed Conservation Coalition.