While reports of America’s possible withdrawal from the Paris Agreement continue, a more local environmental disaster was temporarily avoided today just a few hours north of New York City.
This morning, water flows into the Delaware River dropped to levels not seen since the 1980s, after negotiations stalled between the parties that jointly control it – New York, New Jersey, New York City, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
New York City would not function without the vast water infrastructure that spreads across the western Catskills. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware are all equally dependent on the Delaware River, so the amount of water that flows from four New York City reservoirs that feed the river is set by a joint agreement between these five parties. The entities have been jointly controlling the river since the 1950s.
Since 2007, they have had an agreement that allows a more consistent water flow from the reservoirs. This protects downstream towns from massive flooding (as was seen in 2004, 2005, and 2006) and supports wildlife and recreational jobs along the river. The Delaware River now supports a $414 million dollar tourism and recreation industry in a struggling part of our region.
The lack of agreement means water flows have returned to 1980s levels, which are much lower than current flows. This afternoon, a press release from New York, New York City, Pennsylvania, and Delaware announced a temporary agreement to protect wildlife, but advocates say a longer-term agreement that avoids threatening wildlife and jobs is still needed. New Jersey has been the hold out on extending the current agreement, and did not sign the press release.