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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Delaware: In the Christina River Basin - Delaware and Pennsylvania Work Together

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A watershed program shared by Delaware and Pennsylvania establishes a common goal to preserve the beneficial uses of Christina River basin waters.

The basin's streams begin in Pennsylvania and Maryland and flow through the hills of northern New Castle County, Delaware, to the Delaware River. The four major streams, Brandywine Creek, White Clay Creek, Red Clay Creek, and the Christina River, currently have impaired water quality with higher than normal levels of sediment and bacteria. Nitrogen and phosphorus levels exceed acceptable limits during the summer, and when stream flows are low in the fall. These conditions threaten the public drinking water supply for northern New Castle County.

For years, Delaware and Pennsylvania had different views on how to solve the basin's problems. The major differences involved water quality standards, perceptions of uniqueness, forms of government, and equal representation. Delaware regards the Christina Basin as a drinking water source and requires a higher degree of protection than Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, the Christina River is used for wastewater assimilation and water supply purposes.

Finally, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) established a committee with representatives from both states. The bistate Christina River Basin Water Sources Committee, chaired by DRBC, is made up of district, county, state, and federal agencies. Its principal purpose is to coordinate the water quality management policies of Pennsylvania and Delaware within the watershed.

After collecting watershed data from both states, the committee found that soil and geology maps differ across state lines. These inconsistencies point to the need for interstate consultation and a watershed-based approach to water problems.

Differences in water quality standards and government may be at the root of the problem. Delaware is made up of a small number of county governments, which permits easier administration of stormwater quality standards. But in Pennsylvania's portion of the basin, over 40 different jurisdictions have each implemented a different stormwater quality program.


The plans, which extend through 2000, include bioengineering and riparian restoration demonstration projects, public awareness programs, and stormwater detention retrofits.

The Christina Basin Water Resources Committee is now developing a unified strategy for improving the quality of streams that supply drinking water to residents on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. The five-year cooperative effort will address point and nonpoint source pollution, beginning with monitoring and identifying various sources and types of pollutants.

Using a Total Maximum Daily Load approach will help control wastewater discharges and provide the foundation for developing a water quality management model of the watershed. Once this step is taken, an assessment and identification of nonpoint sources, such as sediment, road oils, fertilizers, and metals, will be incorporated into the model. Both Delaware and Pennsylvania will use the watershed model to develop projects to control stormwater runoff and reduce water quality impacts to the receiving streams.


CONTACT: Nancy Goggin
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control
(302) 739-3451



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