Part of $35 million investment in the Delaware River watershed to protect drinking water for 17 million people

Chester, N.J.  | April 04, 2014

The Nature Conservancy has been awarded nearly $2.5 million by the William Penn Foundation to lead projects in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey that focus on the health of the Delaware River and its tributaries. These grants are part of a $35 million multi-year initiative by the William Penn Foundation to protect and restore critical sources of drinking water for 17 million people, many in major cities including New York (NY), Philadelphia (PA), Camden (NJ), and Wilmington (DE). The total set of grants fund an unprecedented collaboration of leading conservation organizations who will align their work to protect land, restore streams, test innovative approaches in ecologically significant places, and monitor results over time.

Together with partners in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, The Nature Conservancy will engage in planning, research, and on-the-ground initiatives for restoring floodplains, managing storm water, protecting forests, and reducing the presence of certain pollutants. “We’ve been working in the Delaware Basin for many years, and our deep experience in conservation planning and freshwater analysis positions us well to be effective for the watershed and its habitats,” said Eric Olsen, Delaware River and Bay Whole System Project Director for The Nature Conservancy. “These grants expand the scope of positive impacts we can make on the river’s health, with special focus on priorities like improving water quality in the Paulins Kill River, increasing open space funding in the Poconos, and researching innovative financing options in the watersheds of the Brandywine and Christina rivers.”

Combined, the array of funded projects will permanently protect more than 30,000 acres with significant waterways, implement more than 40 restoration projects that will improve local water quality, pilot new incentives for landowners and businesses, provide replicable models for other locations in the watershed, and develop long-term water quality data for the watershed at an unprecedented scale.

The Delaware River watershed covers more than 13,500-square miles spanning New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. In addition to being a major source of drinking water, the watershed supports an array of water-related economic enterprises valued at $25 billion per year, as well as hemispherically significant habitat. Poorly planned development, deforestation, chemical runoff from farms, and storm water runoff in cities severely threaten the health of the watershed.

“Healthy landscapes with working farms and forests in the Delaware River watershed produce abundant food and fiber and support vibrant rural economies. They also provide clean water, clean air, and valuable wildlife habitat that benefit their own communities and urban neighbors,” said Jason Weller, Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “This partnership highlights how a cooperative approach for applying conservation activities on private and public land is essential for everyone in the watershed—whether they live in urban or rural areas.”

"EPA values collaborative initiatives like this that help organizations build greater capacity and leverage critical resources needed to tackle the next generation of water protection issues," said EPA Region 3 Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. "This new initiative will support efforts led by other active partners, such as the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, in advancing science, research and restoration work to protect the entire bay and river watershed. Building healthy and resilient watersheds is essential to protecting our nation's water resources, and ensuring a sustainable future for the communities that depend on them."

"The Delaware River Watershed is a critical resource for communities in New Jersey, New York, and the entire region," said EPA Region 2 Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "Every day, millions of people depend upon the watershed as a source of drinking water, for agricultural uses, and for recreation. Preventing pollution from entering the Delaware River and its watershed is the single most effective strategy to ensure that the watershed is protected."

Laura Sparks, Chief Philanthropy Officer of the William Penn Foundation, explained that monitoring data will enable WPF and other foundations to make more informed, evidence-based decisions going forward. Sparks continued, “We are eager to use the data collected to inform real-time adjustments, analyze the potential of these projects across the watershed, and magnify those results to catalyze widespread action grounded in high-quality science."

As a result of the planning work, the initiative features eight “clusters” of sub-watersheds, constituting approximately 25 percent of the total Delaware River Basin across four states, where analysis has shown that investment in targeted efforts to protect or improve water quality in specific streams and rivers could deliver significant returns. Restoration and preservation efforts in these sub-watersheds not only contribute directly to the water quality in the Delaware Basin, but will also serve as incubators for cultivating a wide range of effective approaches for expanding investment across the watershed, and ultimately in other river basins across the country.

Andrew Johnson, Senior Program Officer for Watershed Protection at the William Penn Foundation, stated, “We look forward to making this work and data available to the public and hope to identify new evidence-based methods for avoiding or mitigating key stressors threatening water quality in major metropolitan areas, specifically urban storm water runoff, agricultural pollution, loss of forests in essential headwater areas, and aquifer depletion.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Mary Conti
The Nature Conservancy
(908) 955-0357


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