Chester County's Comprehensive Water Resource Plan
Thoughtful, science-based planning for water resource management is critical for balancing what nature provides with what our communities need, both today and in the future. Now, Chester County has a new County-wide integrated water resources plan, Watersheds 2045.
The original Watersheds plan, released in 2002, guided two decades of work to protect and enhance streams, lakes, and groundwater. For more on the original plan, click here. The newly revised plan will continue that legacy, and will also serve as the County’s Rivers Conservation Plan and Act 167 Stormwater Management Plan.
This plan was adopted by the County Commissioners on January 24, 2024 and can be accessed through the links below.
- Appendix A: PA Act 167 Regulatory Requirements Crosswalk
- Appendix B: Progress and Gaps Analysis since 2002
- Appendix C: Water Budget and Pollutant Load Analyses Technical Documentation
- Appendix D: 2020 vs. 2045 Water Budget and Pollutant Loading Data Summaries
- Appendix E: Summary of WPAC, Public, and Stakeholder Involvement
- Appendix F: Chester County 2022 County-wide Model Stormwater Ordinance
Watersheds 2045 is still pending final review by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the PA Department of Environmental Protection.
Watersheds 2045 Goals
The Watersheds 2045 plan highlights 7 County-wide goals to achieve our vision of clean water, healthy habitats, thriving communities, and accessible recreation for all. Those goals are:
Engage and educate individuals, communities, businesses, and governments to promote scientifically based watershed stewardship
Expand water-based recreational opportunities and access to local water features
Conserve and protect the County’s natural resources for clean water
Improve surface water and groundwater quality
Reduce stormwater runoff and mitigate the impacts of flooding
Promote the integration of water resources, natural resources protection, and land use planning
Ensure safe, sustainable water supply and wastewater disposal systems
The plan also lays out locally-specific goals and strategies for each of the County's 21 watersheds. Check out Chapter 6 of the plan to find out more about your home watershed!
Watershed Accomplishments since 2002
Significant progress has been made to protect and enhance Chester County's water resources since the first Watersheds plan was published in 2002.
Water quality has improved in many places across Chester County:
- PADEP has recorded approximately 11.5 miles of Chester County streams as restored (i.e., removed them from the Impaired Waters List for specific impairments) through their Integrated Water Quality Reports, including sections of Beaver Creek, Bennetts Run, Buck Run, Big Elk Creek, Pocopson Creek, and French Creek.
- County-wide water quality data on biotic integrity scores (which are based on the presence and abundance of certain aquatic species in a stream) from 1998 through 2021 show that our average annual high scores remain steady, while our annual average low scores show a gradual increase over time. Generally, this means that our high performing streams continue to do well, and some streams that have historically received lower scores are showing signs of improvement.
Streams, floodplains, wetlands, and riparian areas are better protected through improved municipal natural resources and stormwater management planning:
- Over 90% of the County’s municipalities have adopted wetland and woodland protection ordinances and more than 60% have ordinances protecting riparian buffers
- More than 2,000 agricultural Best Management Practices and 730 acres of riparian buffer have been installed with assistance from the Chester County Conservation District
- More than 42,000 acres of open space have been protected since 2002 through Chester County’s Open Space Municipal Grant Programs
- The headwaters of French Creek and West Branch Crum Creek were successfully upgraded to Exceptional Value status.
Flood planning and preparedness efforts have expanded:
- 100% of Chester County municipalities with floodplains (which includes 72 out of the County’s 73 municipalities) have adopted floodplain protection standards
- Two regional flood control facilities in the Brandywine Creek watershed, Hibernia Dam and Beaver Creek Dam, were rehabilitated to comply with the latest PA DEP Dam Safety Standards
- Watershed stewardship education and engagement programs have expanded
- Penn State Extension established a Master Watershed Stewards Program in Chester County; participants in this program have volunteered over 6,000 hours completing projects and hosting educational events
- An average of 300-400 students participate in the annual Chester County Envirothon each year
Water-based recreation opportunities have increased:
- Two dams have been removed on the East Branch and the main stem of the Brandywine Creek to facilitate safe boating and angling opportunities
- Access points along the Brandywine Creek, Schuylkill River, and Octoraro Creek have been improved
For more information on specific subwatershed plans, click here. For specific subwatershed Act 167 Stormwater Management Plans, click here, or here for the County's updated Stormwater Management model ordinance.