Stories in Delaware

Delaware's Stream Stewards Program

Discover how you can become a Stream Steward and help protect Wilmington’s drinking water supply.

Several brown geese float in a row through a river surrounded by green trees.
Brandywine Creek a tributary of the Christina River in northern Delaware © Devan King

About the Stream Stewards Program

A person kneels next to water to collect a sample.
Community Scientist Community scientists from Stream Stewards collect valuable data used to determine water quality. © Kim Hachadoorian/TNC

Stream Stewards is a community science program designed to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in watershed stewardship. Originally launched in 2016, Stream Stewards trains volunteers to engage with the scientific process by collecting water quality data from the streams that flow through First State National Historical Park (FRST) to Brandywine Creek.

The streams in First State National Historical Park that feed Brandywine Creek provide an ideal learning environment for volunteers of all ages to gain an understanding of stream ecology and the importance of watershed protection. By engaging in water quality data collection, Stream Stewards contribute to science-based management actions that will have a real conservation impact in the park.

Stream stewards logo. Three round icons depicting blue waves, an orange fish and a green leaf above three partner logos.
Stream Stewards Citizen science program in Delaware.

Adult participants are trained on monitoring the water quality of streams within the Beaver Valley unit at FRST. A curriculum is being developed for high school students and their families to become engaged in water quality monitoring near their schools and homes. All participants learn about stewardship opportunities for improving the health of their watersheds and are provided opportunities to contribute to conservation efforts in their communities.

A man sits on a rock in a stream.
Stream Steward Long time Stream Steward, Rob Tuttle, at Fist State National Historical Park's Beaver Valley unit. © Kim Hachadoorian/TNC

Brandywine Creek supplies 100% of the drinking water for Wilmington residents. When water runs off of surfaces with low permeability like paved roads, it carries contaminants that enter the streams that feed into Brandywine Creek. This run-off degrades the water quality and threatens this important resource, lowering its habitat value for wildlife and making it unsafe for activities such as fishing and swimming.

Through a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service and Stroud Water Research Center, and with funding from the William Penn Foundation and the Ernest E. Stempel Foundation, the Stream Stewards program is engaging community scientist volunteers in data collection that will help to address these water quality issues.

Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River logo. A green leaf inside a blue water droplet outline.
Alliance for Watershed Education Stream Stewards Partner

Through our partnership with First State National Historical Park, we are a member of the Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River which is comprised of 23 environmental education centers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The 23 education centers in the Alliance share a mission to collectively increase and enhance constituent appreciation, knowledge and stewardship of the Delaware River watershed.

Stream Stewards Video Series

Stream Stewards is a community science program designed to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in watershed stewardship. We’ve created a four-part video series consisting of a program overview and a look at the three main components of Stream Stewards: youth engagement, community science, and public outreach and education.

Program Requirements

Two women crouch next to each other in a forest taking samples from water collected in a small blue basin.
Stream Stewards in Action Two Stream Stewards community scientists on a site visit to their stream monitoring location in First State National Historical Park. © Kim Hachadoorian/TNC

Two Stream Stewards community scientists, visit their stream monitoring location in First State National Historical Park.

You must be at least 18 years old to apply to be a Stream Steward and be willing to participate in at least four half-day training sessions that will take place in First State National Historical Park.

After completing the training, Stream Stewards must complete at least 20 hours of service, which can include collecting water quality data at monitoring sites, participating in stewardship projects such as plantings and invasive species removal and assisting with our bi-annual watershed clean-up events or other outreach and education opportunities.

Stream Stewards will:

  • Learn about watershed ecology
  • Be trained in water quality monitoring and data collection techniques
  • Connect with nature in First State National Historical Park
  • Contribute to conservation and natural resource management
  • Become Community Scientists
  • Join a diverse community of volunteers and stewardship leaders
A river flows over rocks under a stone bridge.
Community Scientists Community scientists from Stream Stewards collect valuable data used to determine water quality. © Kim Hachadoorian/TNC

Become a Stream Steward

For more information about becoming a Stream Steward, contact Stream Steward Project Manager Kim Hachadoorian at

× A river flows over rocks under a stone bridge.
A stream meanders through a section of the woods.
Rocky Run A stream runs through Rocky Run, a section of First State National Historical Park. © Kim Hachadoorian/TNC

Reflections from Stream Stewards Project Manager Kim Hachadoorian

When the Rain Comes

When the rain comes, it reaches the earth and travels the path of least resistance, drawn by gravity and a seeming wanderlust. In forests and meadows, the rain’s journey will be meandering and leisurely. It will drip off leaves and soak into soil. Some of this water will be absorbed by thirsty plant roots, and some will continue to wend through underground channels, eventually flowing into a stream or river. By contrast, in cities and suburbs, the rain’s progress is usually direct and hasty as it rolls off rooftops and runs down roadways into storm drains and a system of underground pipes. During a heavy rainfall these pipes can send a deluge into waterways, causing them to overflow. That’s when serious flooding can occur. But we can alleviate this problem by using nature to slow the rainwater and allow it to spread out.

Rocky Run is a multifaceted little stream in Wilmington, Delaware that demonstrates both these rainwater trajectories. One section of Rocky Run flows through the serene woods of First State National Historical Park into Brandywine Creek, which eventually joins the Delaware River. But before all of that happens, the water in Rocky Run must travel through a concrete channel, along a busy roadway crowded with shopping malls and parking lots. Rainwater flows rapidly over these paved surfaces, downhill and into the stream.

If you are in the park when the rain comes, standing on the bank of Rocky Run among the towering tulip trees, you will see the water level rise quickly, completely submerging the large rocks you stepped upon to cross the stream. The surface of the water may have an oily sheen or a film of soapy looking bubbles. And you will likely see a regatta of trash, washed off the paved surfaces and carried into the stream by the rain.

Then, like water draining from a bathtub, the level recedes as quickly as it rose. This happens because the land in the park gives the water somewhere to go. No longer constrained by a concrete channel, the stream can spread out over the banks like a blanket. Then it seeps into the soil, finding passage through connected vertical air spaces that create finger-like tunnels for the rainwater to travel down. The soil is a sponge that stores and cleans the water, and then releases it slowly back into the stream.

If we add more of these natural sponges to our urban areas by increasing green spaces, we can lessen flooding and create a filtration system that delivers cleaner water to the rivers that provide drinking water for many of us. Every park, every garden, every green space, no matter how small, can help with this effort. Nature gives rainwater the time and space to slow down and spread out. We can’t stop the rain, but we can change our cities so that when the rain comes, it has somewhere to go.