News Release

Upstream Reservoir Release Bolsters Potomac Flow

Sep 14, 2010

Washington, D.C. − A release of water from Jennings Randolph Reservoir on the North Branch Potomac River to boost flow levels in the Potomac River began on September 10, 2010 as called for by regional agreements that guide the release of water stored for water supply.  The release is being coordinated by the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) in partnership with major water utilities in the region and is part of normal drinking water supply operations during low river flow conditions. 

The water is needed by the Washington metropolitan area water utilities to meet water supply demands and environmental recommendations during the current period of low-flows on the Potomac River.  The utilities rely on the Potomac to provide more than 75 percent of the area's drinking water. Previous use of stored water in Jennings Randolph occurred in 1999 and 2002.

The release from Jennings Randolph, which lies more than 200 miles upstream, began augmenting Potomac River flow at a rate of 170 million gallon per day (mgd).  Jennings Randolph’s water supply storage is almost 13 billion gallons. The rate of release will be evaluated daily, along with data on stream flows throughout the basin, precipitation, water demand, groundwater levels, and other data to guide drought operations for the region.  The released water is expected to reach metropolitan area water supply intakes in about 10 days.  As the situation is monitored, the release may be altered or ended.

"Long-range planning and close cooperation among ICPRB and the water suppliers has assured the metropolitan area adequate water supplies even during extended drought conditions," said ICPRB Executive Director Joseph Hoffman.

A drought WATCH was put into effect on September 9, 2010 by the Drought Coordination Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), but no mandatory restrictions on water use are being called for because there is an adequate supply of drinking water for the metropolitan area at this time.  Residents and businesses are being asked to use water wisely as part of their daily routines.  Increasing conservation efforts now and throughout the year will help optimize use of water resources and meet the environmental needs of the River, especially if dry conditions persist into the fall and winter.  A detailed list of tips for wise water use can be found at‚Äč

Hoffman noted that ICPRB, the utilities, and area governments continue to assess long-term water supply needs to ensure that the metropolitan area, as well as the entire Potomac basin, will meet future challenges to a safe and adequate water supply.

More information on the current drought, river flows, and water releases, as well as the water supply system for the metropolitan area can be found on the web at:


For questions, please contact Curtis Dalpra of ICPRB at (301) 274-8107

Background Information

Record high temperatures this summer combined with below normal precipitation affected streamflow and groundwater levels throughout the entire Potomac River Basin.  Precipitation over the past month is 50 percent below normal and has dropped more than four inches below normal in the past 90 days.  River flows are also well below normal levels, and the NOAA Climate Prediction Center has declared 94% percent of the Potomac River Basin to be abnormally to extremely dry.  Little to no rain is predicted over the next 14 days.

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