The commission governs water withdrawal and consumptive use along the Susquehanna River and its tributaries. It also helps coordinate state and federal-level environmental efforts within the river’s 27,500-mile watershed.
A 1970 federal law created the compact, which is made up of representatives from Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and the U.S. governments. Each state’s governor has a representative on the commission’s board, though an executive director oversees much of the SRBC’s day-to-day activity and enforcement efforts.
On its website, the SRBC defines its mission as:
“[enhancing] public welfare through comprehensive planning, water supply allocation, and management of the water resources of the Susquehanna River Basin.
To accomplish this mission, the SRBC works to: reduce damages caused by floods; provide for the reasonable and sustained development and use of surface and ground water for municipal, agricultural, recreational, commercial and industrial purposes; protect and restore fisheries, wetlands and aquatic habitat; protect water quality and instream uses; and ensure future availability of flows to the Chesapeake Bay.”
The SRBC focuses on maintaining the Susquehanna River basin’s water quantity; preventing flooding; and protecting the Chesapeake Bay (the river is its largest tributary).
When it comes to natural gas drilling, the SRBC regulates water withdrawals and consumptive uses. Hydraulic fracturing requires large amounts of water, and drillers typically acquire the fluid from nearby streams, creeks and rivers. The SRBC makes sure they’re not taking too much at once. When dry spells lower water levels, the commission imposes withdrawal moratoriums.
While the SRBC regulates water withdrawals and consumption, it doesn’t have as much broad authority to oversee drillers as the Delaware River Basin Commission, and does not regulate water quality.