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Susquehanna River Watershed

A brief overview of this watershed and its water quality is presented below. For more detailed information about the Susquehanna River Watershed, published NYSDEC reports are also available. General information about watersheds is available at the "We All Live in a Watershed" webpage.

Facts about this Watershed

Map of NYS identifying the Upper Susquehanna River Watershed
Click to view a detailed map of this watershed

The Susquehanna River Basin is the second largest - next to the Ohio River Basin - east of the Mississippi River. The 444 miles of the Susquehanna drain 27,500 square miles covering large parts of New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland before emptying into the Chesapeake Bay. Two separate Susquehanna River Basin watersheds drain portions of south-central New York State: The Upper Susquehanna Watershed (discussed here) and the Chemung River Watershed (addressed separately).

Location: Southern Tier of New York State

  • Most of Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Otsego and Tioga Counties,
  • Portions of northern Delaware, southern Madison and eastern Chemung Counties, and
  • Small parts of Schuyler, Tompkins, Onondaga, Oneida, Herkimer and Schoharie Counties.

Size: 4,520 square miles of land area within New York State, excluding the Chemung River Watershed.

Rivers and Streams: 8,185 miles of freshwater rivers and streams. Major tributary watersheds to the 148 miles of the Susquehanna River in New York State include:

  • Chenango River (2,796 river/stream miles)
  • Tioughnioga River (1,293 miles, within the Chenango River Watershed)
  • Unadilla River (935 miles)
  • Owego Creek (766 miles)

Lakes, Ponds and Reservoirs: 130 significant freshwater lakes, ponds, and reservoirs (16,521 acres), including:

  • Otsego Lake (4,083 lake/reservoir acres)
  • Canadarago Lake (1,882 acres)
  • Whitney Point Lake/Reservoir (1,235 acres)

How is the Water?

Water Quality in The Susquehanna River Watershed

In the Susquehanna Watershed, about 33% of river/stream miles, and 77% of lake, pond and reservoir acres have been assessed (see Assessment Report).

Water quality Pie Chart. Rivers: 15% good, 14% Satisfactory, 4% Poor, 67% unassessed. Lakes: 2% good, 64% satisfactory, 12% poor, 23% unassessed
Good water quality: Fully supports designated activities and uses.
Satisfactory: Fully supports designated activities, but with minor impacts.
Poor (Impaired): does not support designated activities and uses.
Unassessed: Insufficient data available.

Water quality in the Susquehanna River Watershed is generally satisfactory. The most widespread impacts are the result of agricultural and other nonpoint sources which contribute nutrients and sediment to the waters. Municipal wastewater discharges (including combined sewer overflows) are concerns in and around the Binghamton-Johnson City area. Inadequate wastewater treatment in some rural areas by means of on-site septic or smaller community systems has also been cited as contributing to water quality issues. Impacts from flooding are also a concern in this flood-prone area.

Major water quality concerns in the watershed are:

  • Agricultural and Other Nonpoint Sources of nutrients and various other pollutants
  • Municipal Wastewater and Combined Sewer Overflow Impacts in Binghamton-Johnson City area
  • On-site Septic and Rural Community Wastewater Treatment in unsewered areas
  • Flooding Impacts in the flood-prone Southern Tier of New York

About Water Quality in New York State

Water chemistry sampling in a NYS stream
Water Chemistry Sampling

Each waterbody in NYS has been assigned a classification, which reflects the designated "best uses" of the waterbody. These best uses typically include the ability to support fish and aquatic wildlife, recreational uses (fishing, boating) and, for some waters, public bathing, drinking water use or shellfishing. Water quality is considered to be good if the waters support their best uses. NYSDEC routinely monitors and assesses water quality throughout the state and publishes detailed reports of these findings. For more information on these monitoring and assessment programs, see Water Quality Monitoring, Assessment and Planning.

What You Can Do!

Each of us lives in a watershed. On our Watershed Stewardship page are some tips on actions that you and your friends can take to help your watershed.

Biological kick sampling in a NYS stream
Biological Kick Sampling

Published Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Reports

More about Susquehanna River Watershed: