Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund

Why Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund

Draining 13 million acres across four states, the Delaware River is the source of drinking water for 15 million people, a web of diverse plant and animal life, a recreational destination, and the foundation of the region’s economy.

The river has become much cleaner since the 1970s, after the federal Clean Water Act regulated major pollution sources, like sewage and factory waste. But today contamination still enters the watershed from thousands of smaller sources, carried into streams and groundwater by runoff from roads, construction sites, suburbs, cities, farms, and logged and mined lands (see white paper, Investing in Strategies to Accelerate Conservation and Measure Impact in the Delaware River Watershed).

Launched in 2014, the Delaware River Watershed Fund seeks to ensure abundant, clean water through support of land protection and improved land use planning, as part of the broader Delaware River Watershed Initiative, a coordinated effort involving 65 organizations working together to protect and restore clean water in the Delaware River watershed. The Initiative, generously supported by the William Penn Foundation and now entering a second phase, supports land protection, restoration and water quality monitoring in eight regions of the watershed. The William Penn Foundation has also commissioned an assessment of the contribution of capital investments in protection and restoration to ensure water quality.

Through the Fund, OSI provides three types of grants:

  • Capital Grants for the purchase of land and easements to permanently protect important watershed lands;
  • Transaction Grants to jumpstart land conservation efforts; and,
  • Catalyst Grants to integrate water quality science into open space and other regional plans to accelerate watershed protection by state, county and municipal governments. Download this Catalyst Grant program summary for more information and to apply for Catalyst grants.

The Fund also makes short-term Low-Interest Loans to bridge gaps in public or private funding for land protection projects.

Impact of the Fund

Through the conclusion of Phase 1, OSI approved capital grants totaling $8.2 million for 42 projects that will preserve almost 20,000 acres of land. These projects are expected to protect 87 miles of forested stream banks, 11,300 acres of headwaters, 6,400 acres of stream buffers and 2,400 acres of wetlands. Read more about recent projects completed in  2018.

Complementing these land protection efforts, OSI has made four Catalyst grants to integrate water quality science into conservation plans covering three counties and one municipality. See our case study on the Sussex County Open Space Plan

In 2016, OSI produced A Watershed Moment, revealing the importance of the Delaware River and efforts to save the watershed for the more than 15 million residents relying on its drinking water.

Next Steps to Apply

Next Steps to Apply

OSI will issue Requests for Proposals for Capital grants twice annually. This round is due by May 31st

Proposals for Transaction and Catalyst Grants will be considered on a rolling basis.

Please review the Frequently Asked Questions for Capital and Transaction Grants before applying. Before preparing a proposal, applicants are encouraged to contact OSI staff. 

Listen to the webinar about application here.

To complete an application for a capital or transaction grant, applicants must download the Map Guide and Map Package that provide detailed steps for assessing the project’s conservation value and examples of the required maps. For assistance with the map package or with GIS, please contact Neil Jordan (contact below). 

All grant applications must be submitted through OSI’s online grant portal

To apply for a Capital or Transaction grant click here and include the financial summary

The Catalyst Grant application is available here. (PDF of online application for informational purpose only.)
Please include the financial summary with your application.

Sign up to be notified about future capital grant rounds.

View the original announcement around the $11 million in grants now available through the Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund. 

Fund Inquiries

Bill Rawlyk

Middle Atlantic Field Coordinator


Catalyst Grant Inquiries

Abigail Weinberg

Science, Data and Catalyst Grants

212 290 8200


Administrative Inquiries

Yasemin Unal-Rodriguez

Conservation Capital Associate

(212) 290-8200


Neil Jordan

Conservation Information Manager

(212) 290-8200

What You Can Do

Donate to support OSI’s work

Become a part of our mission to safeguard at-risk places through your tax-deductible gift.


Subscribe to our newsletter

We get in touch once a month with our most important news, stories, and updates.

Please leave this field empty