Why the 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).
About the Fund
Launched in 2014, the Delaware River Watershed Protection 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, 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. More information about each of these grant types and instructions on how to apply can be found in our cloud-based RFP Resource Library.
- 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 strategic conservation or forest management plans, such as Open Space Plans, ordinances, or other mechanisms for the protection and stewardship of water resources. OSI encourages proposals that address climate change, flood hazard, and/or water justice.
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
Since the launch of the Fund in 2014, OSI has approved Capital and Transaction Grants totaling $11 million for 64 projects that will preserve over 24,000 acres of land. These projects are expected to protect 124.4 miles of forested stream banks, 14,557 acres of headwaters, 8,353.6 acres of stream buffers, and 3,463.5 acres of wetlands. Read more about recent projects.
Complementing these land protection efforts, OSI has made six Catalyst Grants to integrate water quality science into conservation plans covering four counties and three municipalities. For an example of planning work supported by the Catalyst program, see our case study on the Sussex County Open Space Plan.