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
The Delaware River Basin pumps the lifeblood of East Coast: Draining 13,000 acres across four states, it’s 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 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 2015, 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 Fund was established with lead support from a $9 million grant from the William Penn Foundation, OSI's Delaware Watershed Land Protection Fund makes loans and grants to qualified organizations for land acquisition through competitive grants
As of 2016, the Fund supported 13 projects that preserved more than 4,000 acres of forestland containing headwater streams, wetlands, and groundwater recharge areas. Projects also protected exceptional wildlife habitat and endangered 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 – will be 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.