Centre County continues to grow with each U.S. Census. This growth is reflected in a 12% population increase from the 2000 Census which had a population of 135,758 residents to the 2010 Census with a population of 153,990. This population growth trend is continuing with the release of the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) Centre County estimate of 161,464 residents which is approximately 5% more than the 2010 Census. Based on the 2016 ACS estimate, Centre County is the second fastest growing County in Pennsylvania by percentage.
Knowing that Centre County has and will most likely continue to see population growth, we’ll need to take a closer look at where the majority of the growth is occurring within the County. Centre County is divided into seven geographic planning regions which are grouped by municipalities and generally follow school district boundaries – these regions include:
Lower Bald Eagle Valley Region
Moshannon Valley Region
Penns Valley Region
Nittany Valley Region
Upper Bald Eagle Valley Region
Centre County contains 12 watersheds (Figure 1) that lie in whole or in part within its 712,004 acres (1,112 square miles) of total land area. These watersheds coincidentally follow closely the geographic boundaries of the County’s seven planning regions.
Figure 1. Watersheds in Centre County, Pennsylvania and seven geographic planning regions (Centre County Planning Office 2003).
Of these 12 watersheds, the Spring Creek Watershed contains a total land area of 93,103 acres (145 square miles) or approximately 13% of the County’s total land area. The Spring Creek Watershed also covers in whole or in part 10 of the County’s 35 municipalities.
Even though it is one of the smaller watersheds (geographically) in the County, it is home to major population centers such as The Pennsylvania State University, State College Borough and Bellefonte Borough (Figure 2). These population centers have powered major growth in the housing, business and industrial sectors which in turn have spurred the County’s population growth.
Figure 2. Population Density in Watersheds, Centre County, Pennsylvania (Centre County Planning Office 2017).
This growth is fueled in part by the innovative sewer and water systems that serve these population centers which are designed and operated with sustainable features that protect the watershed. Because these systems are innovative, sustainable and have planned for additional capacity, the Watershed will be able to accommodate future growth.
Factoring in the population centers and the growth they have created, the Spring Creek Watershed has by far the largest population of any of the County’s 12 identified watersheds.
With a total population of approximately 114,421 residents, the Spring Creek Watershed accounts for 71% of the County’s total population. Based on the historical population growth as evidenced by the census information, we can expect continued growth in the Spring Creek Watershed for years to come.
Population forecasts developed by the County Planning Office indicate that the County’s population will increase over 22% from 2010 to 2040. That increase means that our 2010 population of 153,990 will have increased to 188,752 by 2040. If the current development trends continue, the majority of that population growth will be in the Spring Creek Watershed.
These predicted demographics indicate the challenge of preserving our natural resources while ensuring continued economic growth and prosperity. For more information about Centre County demographic data, please visit the Centre County Website at http://centrecountypa.gov/ and the PA State Data Center at https://pasdc.hbg.psu.edu/Data/PAStats/tabid/1014/Default.aspx
Bob Jacobs is the Director of the Centre County Planning and Development Office