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About the Delaware River Basin Commission

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is an intergovernmental agency created in 1961 by an interstate compact, signed into law by President John F. Kennedy, between the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and the federal government. The purpose of the DRBC is to bring the water resources of the Delaware River Basin under collective control and to ensure fair usage by the member states.The DRBC was one of the first government agencies in the United States to address the problem of water pollution. The agency predates the EPA and the Clean Water Act.

The commission was created as an agency of the signatory parties. Its membership consists of the governors of the signatory states, and the Division Engineer, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who serves as the federal representative. The members, who serve without compensation, appoint an alternate to serve during absences, and each member has a single vote, with rulings by the majority. The DRBC is funded by the signatory parties, project review fees, water use charges, and fines, as well as federal, state and private grants.

The Delaware River Basin covers 13,500 square miles in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. The New York portion of the Basin covers 2,300 square miles, including portions of Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Schoharie, Greene, Ulster, Orange and Sullivan Counties. Almost 60 percent of New York City’s West-of-Hudson drinking watershed, which provides most of the drinking water used by over nine million New York residents and visitors, is within the Basin.

States have only partial control over waters originating or flowing through their boundaries. Under the law of equitable apportionment, interstate rivers must be shared with co-riparians. Thus, each state has a right to use a percentage of the waters. Like riparian rights, interstate rights remain inchoate until they are quantified by Supreme Court decree through an equitable apportionment, an interstate compact, or Congressional apportionment.

The initial impetus for the creation of the DRBC was a 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a court-ordered formula under which the river states and New York City are to share Delaware River waters.

As trustee of the Delaware River Basin, the Commission has the right to limit practices that could be harmful to water quality and to the health of the 15 million people who live in the Basin and get their water from the Delaware River watershed.

Additional Information

Delaware River Basin Compact

DRBC Website

DRBC Water Code

DRBC Revises Proposed Regs Governing Water Withdrawals for Gas Drilling, NYWL

50 Years of Cooperative Interstate Water Management in the Delaware River Basin, USGS Website


Posted by Rachel Treichler. Most recent update 01/05/12



Copyright 2013, Rachel Treichler



About NY Water Law

New York Water Law covers legal developments relating to water in New York and in jurisdictions that may be influential in New York. The author, Rachel Treichler, practices law in the Finger Lakes region.
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