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The Science of Watershed Planning

The Open Space Institute's Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) Catalyst grants help bring watershed science to bear on county and municipal planning to ensure scarce conservation dollars effectively protect water quality in the Delaware River Watershed.

These planning grants complement OSI’s capital grants, which help land trusts conserve the forested lands that keep water clean; restoration grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and the work of 50+ nonprofit organizations that are part of the broader Delaware River Watershed Initiative.

In 2016, OSI awarded a grant to the Land Conservancy of New Jersey that resulted in Sussex County, NJ, identifying watershed priorities for the county’s land acquisition program, the subject of a New Jersey PBS story. The plan identified 10% of the region that needs protection to ensure the most important water resources are conserved. By directing the acquisition dollars languishing unspent, the analysis is already leading to increased demand for funding for land protection projects that will help keep water clean for Sussex residents.

Read more in the OSI Case Study: Saving Lands for Clean Water in Sussex County, NJ (2016)

This summer, OSI followed up with three more DRWI Catalyst grants to land conservation organizations partnering with municipalities and counties across the Delaware River Basin. The awardees are:

In Pennsylvania, some of Monroe County’s elected municipal officials had unspent Open Space money in reserve — but not the expertise to prioritize the lands that would optimize water protection. Now, a Catalyst Grant will help the county and the Brodhead Watershed Association identify lands important for drinking water protection, stream flow and quality, and groundwater recharge.

Watch the video “Keeping it Clean” on the Brodhead.

In New York, Sullivan County is gearing up for the arrival of a potentially transformational new employer The Resorts World Catskills. To ensure sustainable growth, Natural Lands Trust (NLT), the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, and the county are studying current water quality and developing a plan to keep water clean. A DRWI Catalyst grant to NLT will help the land trusts and county advance protection, restoration, and green infrastructure strategies to help maintain water quality as growth occurs.  

In New Jersey, Warren County had developed an Open Space and Recreation Plan and dollars to fund protection and restoration, but needed a watershed protection plan with detailed geographic targets. Thanks to a DRWI catalist grant to The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, the county will develop a set of land protection criteria and community-based protection priorities, including floodplain restoration, to ensure clean water for the county. 

OSI's Delaware River Watershed Fund is made possible with funding from the William Penn Foundation.

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