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Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin Cooperative

Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin Cooperative Water Supply Operations

As the population grew in the DC metropolitan area through the twentieth century, water supply during droughts became a significant problem due to increased demands on the Potomac River. The public opposed plans to build reservoirs to alleviate this problem, so stakeholders looked for another solution. Research conducted at Johns Hopkins University showed that by managing the existing Jennings Randolph Reservoir in coordination with the water suppliers' existing Occoquan and Patuxent Reservoirs, the region's projected demands for the future as well as adequate environmental flow could be met with only a fraction of the reservoir storage originally proposed by the Corps. The key to implementing this solution was developing inter-jurisdictional cooperation on management of the reservoir resources.

A more detailed description of the SVP process applied to this study can be found on the Shared Vision Planning Methods page on this web site.

Key Features

  • Found alternative solutions after initial management plan faced public opposition
  • Developed interjurisdictional cooperation to manage reservoir resources
  • Enacted written agreements to ensure cooperation


  • Local water utilities
  • Local government bodies


This project's goal was to find a water-management plan for droughts that would provide users and stakeholders with necessary water levels. A solution other than building reservoirs was needed due to public opposition.

Lessons Learned

The value of cooperative management and collaboration was proven by this important water-management effort. The agreements and results that satisfied stakeholders and the general public, and that continue as part of the project’s ongoing effects, showed that collaborative processes could produce desired ends in resource management.