Volunteers planting trees to protect watershed lands.

Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund

Photo Credit: Aidenn Lair

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. See Fund Summary PDF.

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 October 2017, the Fund has approved grants for 40 projects to preserve more than 18,000 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 data sets 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. 

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


Please check back in the Fall 2017 for next round of grant submissions.

Download frequently asked questions. Download FAQ.

Download the eligibility checklist.

To complete the application, applicants must download the GIS Map Package and Guide which provides 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).

Before preparing a proposal, applicants are encouraged to contact OSI staff. 

Sign up to be notified about future capital grant rounds.


OSI is not accepting Catalyst Grant applications at this time. For your information, you can review the RFP from the previous grant round. Sign up to be notified about future catalyst grant rounds.

Fund Inquiries

Bill Rawlyk

Middle Atlantic Field Coordinator


Catalyst Grant Inquiries

Abigail Weinberg

Science, Data and Catalyst Grants

Administrative Inquiries

Yasemin Unal-Rodriguez

Conservation Capital Associate

(212) 290-8200


Neil Jordan

Conservation Information Manager

(212) 290-8200

What You Can Do

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


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