a tributary of the Christina River in northern Delaware
Brandywine Creek a tributary of the Christina River in northern Delaware © Devan King

The Nature Conservancy in Delaware

Brandywine-Christina Watershed

For several years, The Nature Conservancy’s chapters in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and partners have been collaborating at an unprecedented scale to improve the ecological health and resilience of the Delaware River and Bay in the face of pollution, development and climate change. The Delaware Chapter has the opportunity to make a significant impact on this work in the Brandywine-Christina watershed, a major tributary of the Delaware River that provides drinking water to approximately 60 percent of Delaware’s residents. 

Size
565 square miles

Location
The Brandywine-Christina is an integral part of the larger Delaware River Basin. It spans three states – Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania – and includes the Brandywine River, Red Clay and White Clay creeks, and the Christina River.

What’s At Stake 
The Brandywine-Christina serves many ecological and natural functions and provides over 100 mgd of drinking water for over half a million people. The Pennsylvania portion of the watershed is characterized by open space, including agricultural land and forests, while the more urban, southerly portion in Delaware tends to have more built-up land. A small portion of the watershed crosses into Maryland.

Threats 
For many years, the Brandywine-Christina watershed has been compromised by legacy pollutants, nutrient overloads, failing septic systems and urban runoff.

Milestones

2014

  • The Conservancy and UDWRA were awarded a grant as part of a $35 million investment by the William Penn Foundation intended to improve water quality in the Delaware Basin. Under the grant, the partners are assessing the feasibility of implementing a water fund in the Brandywine-Christina watershed.
  • Volunteers removed two tents, 125 pounds of metal, 4 shopping carts, two shoes, a hammock, a couch, a toy tractor, a seat belt and a ten-dollar bill from Brandywine Creek during an Earth Day clean-up event.

2013

  • Entered into a partnership with the University of Delaware’s Water Resources Agency (UDWRA) to explore a variety of market-based funding mechanisms for in the Brandywine-Christina watershed.
  • Interns from the Conservancy’s nationally-acclaimed Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future (LEAF) program and Wilmington’s Green Jobs program, together with University of Delaware students, conducted stream habitat surveys and water quality tests, organized community clean-up events and restored habitat at Rocky Run, a tributary within the watershed.

Action 
Under a grant from the William Penn Foundation, The Nature Conservancy in Delaware (TNC) and the University of Delaware, Water Resources Agency are working toward implementing a water fund in the Brandywine-Christina watershed. At its most basic level, a water fund is a mechanism for downstream beneficiaries to invest in upstream conservation measures designed to secure freshwater resources – both quality and quantity – for man and nature far into the future.

In recent years, the Christina Basin Clean Water Partnership has funded projects to restore the waters of the watershed by piecing together grants. A lack of consistent and stable financing hampers progress in restoring the watershed. University of Delaware, Water Resources Agency and TNC propose to develop a dependable, watershed-based funding stream that will enable strategic funding for restoration projects and financing for conservation needs in the watershed to meet the water quality goals by 2025. This is a multi-year process and includes a feasibility and technical analysis, coordination with and input from key stakeholders, communications research and a business plan.