OSI is spearheading an ambitious land protection effort in the Delaware watershed to maintain and improve water quality. Our Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund aims to preserve 30,000 acres of forestland in critical headwaters and to advance scientific tools and public policies that help secure clean, abundant water.
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 controlled 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.
In 2012, the Delaware River Watershed Initiative of the William Penn Foundation brought together 40 conservation and educational organizations, including OSI, in a coordinated effort to protect water quality and quantity in the Delaware. A linchpin of this effort – led by OSI – is to preserve forests in the headwater that soak up stormwater and filter pollutants. Our Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund also supports open-space planning and policy innovation to promote water resource protection by state, county and municipal governments.
Impact of the Fund
The Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund was established with lead support from a $9 million grant from the William Penn Foundation. OSI's Fund makes loans and grants to qualified organizations for land acquisition and conservation planning through competitive grants
As of June 2017, the Fund supported 15 projects to preserve more than 4,500 acres of forestland containing headwater streams, wetlands, and groundwater recharge areas, all essential to clean water in the Delaware Basin. Projects also protected exceptional wildlife habitat and threatened species. Several of the places we helped protect – such as the 550-acre Mosiers Knob, which was transferred to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – are open to the public for hiking and passive recreation.
Catalyst grants from the Fund allowed scientists to create watershed datasets and develop analytic tools to target land conservation efforts to the places most effective for keeping water clean. Our grants also spurred organizations to engage public agencies in water protection through land conservation planning and policy innovations.
See a short film The Legacy Tree about combating erosion and sedimentation on lands that have been deforested and overgrazed by cattle, by planting trees along the bank of the Paulinskill River to help filter water, limit erosion, absorb flooding, and cool the river for fish.