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Delaware River Watershed Initiative Builds on Conservation Successes

Wednesday, April 04, 2018


Wallkill River Watershed Management Group leading new wave of progress for clean water protection

Lafayette, NJ –The SCMUA-Wallkill River Watershed Management Group is leading a major project to protect clean water in northern New Jersey, as a member of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI).

The William Penn Foundation announced more than $40 million in new funding for the DRWI, which is among the country’s largest non-governmental conservation efforts to protect and restore clean water. The DRWI is a first-of-its-kind collaboration involving 65 non-governmental organizations working together to protect and restore the Delaware River and its tributaries, which provide drinking water for 15 million people in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

The DRWI’s bottom-up approach represents a strategic path forward for the Delaware River basin. It is a nationally significant model that demonstrates the power of an organized, independent, non-profit-driven approach that encourages partnership between communities and the philanthropic sector.

Here in Sussex County, we’ve been able to work with partners and local volunteers to plant over 22,000 trees and shrubs along the Paulins Kill River, helping to keep the water clean in this important tributary of the Delaware River. The trees will act as a buffer that will block polluted runoff from entering the river, ensuring that the water is clean for people and wildlife for years to come. Over the next three years, the William Penn Foundation’s investment in this region will help the Wallkill River Watershed Management Group continue its tree planting initiative throughout the Paulins Kill and begin a rain garden installation program in local lake communities to prevent polluted runoff from entering Sussex County’s lakes and streams.

The DRWI stands out as a basin-scale program driven by non-profits and guided by science. In just over three years DRWI partners have strategically:

• initiated projects that will protect 19,604 acres and restore an additional 8,331 acres, and

• monitored and sampled water quality at more than 500 sites across four states.

This additional $42 million, three-year investment builds on initial successes to protect and restore an estimated 43,484 additional acres and continue science-driven, data-informed efforts to secure clean, abundant water in the basin. The Initiative provides a replicable model that can be used to improve water health across the country.

Threats to the Delaware River basin are significant, demanding a concerted response from private landowners and local officials to protect our natural resources. The DRWI is tackling widespread pollution sources that harm clean water in our rivers and streams: erosion and runoff from deforested acres in headwaters; polluted runoff from agricultural fields; flooding and polluted stormwater from cities and suburbs; and a depleted aquifer in southern New Jersey. These growing problems will threaten drinking water for millions of people every day if left unaddressed.

“By design, the Delaware River Watershed Initiative aligns the work of 65 organizations in the watershed to accelerate conservation,” said Andrew Johnson, program director for Watershed Protection at the William Penn Foundation. “The Initiative is rooted in the strength of these organizations individually and in their ability to collaborate using science to target the most important places for conservation. Together they are protecting and restoring those places, measuring the impact of their efforts on local streams, and learning collectively to improve their work.”

About the Delaware River Watershed Initiative:

The Delaware River Watershed Initiative is a collaboration of 65 leading nonprofit organizations that have developed shared action plans to reduce four priority threats to clean water. Informed by science, the Initiative is working in eight targeted areas, where analysis indicated that interventions could significantly safeguard or improve clean water. Together, these eight areas constitute 25 percent of the river basin and include portions of New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York. For more information, including a list of all participating organizations, visit