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 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 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 jump start 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 a Catalyst grant.
The Fund also makes short-term, Low-Interest Loans to bridge gaps in public or private funding for land protection projects.
Future Capital Grants applications will be posted on this website.
OSI accepts applications for Transaction Grants and Catalyst Grants on a rolling basis.
Impact of the Fund
Since the launch of the Fund in 2014, OSI approved Capital Grants totaling $8.9 million for 47 projects that will preserve over 22,000 acres of land. These projects are expected to protect 110 miles of forested stream banks, 22,180 acres of headwaters, 7,685 acres of stream buffers and 3,600 acres of wetlands. Read more about recent projects.
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.