New Funding for DRWI

The William Penn Foundation today announced more than $40 million–including $3.2 million for the Academy of Natural Sciences–in new funding for the Delaware River Watershed Initiative. The DRWI is among the country’s largest non-governmental conservation efforts to protect and restore clean water. The Academy leads Academy leads the science.

The DRWI is a first-of-its-kind collaboration involving 65 non-governmental organizations working together to protect and restore the Delaware River and its tributaries, which provide drinking water for 15 million people in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

Academy scientists sample algae near Bethlehem, Pa., as part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative. Photo by Tess Hooper

At a time when the federal government is redefining its role in environmental protection, leadership by public agencies and NGOs at the state and local levels is more important than ever to keep our water clean.

Federal policies over the past several decades, such as the Clean Water Act, have successfully reduced pollution in waterways nationwide. Yet recent rollbacks of protections and budget cuts for the federal Environmental Protection Agency threaten to slow or reverse progress.

The DRWI’s bottom-up approach represents a strategic path forward for the Delaware River basin. It is a nationally significant model that demonstrates the power of an organized, independent, non-profit-driven approach that encourages partnership between communities and the philanthropic sector.

The Academy’s grant announced today allows the institution to continue to lead the science in planning, implementation and evaluation of the initiative.

Farm fertilizers and animal waste flowing into streams can cause problems in the Delaware River Watershed.

“Our extensive monitoring produces real-time data on water quality, and the tools developed through the DRWI have essentially created a feedback loop where we can analyze the potential impacts of projects across the watershed in order to pinpoint areas of greatest potential change, and measure whether our efforts had an effect on the water,” said Roland Wall, senior director for environmental initiatives at the Academy. “Eventually, we can amplify those results to mobilize widespread action grounded in high-quality science.”

At its 2014 launch, the DRWI catalyzed local and regional groups to accelerate conservation efforts. The DRWI stands out as a basin-scale program driven by non-profits and guided by science. In just over three years DRWI partners have strategically:

  • initiated projects that will protect 19,604 acres and restore an additional 8,331 acres, and
  • monitored and sampled water quality at more than 500 sites across four states.

This additional $42 million, three-year investment builds on initial successes to protect and restore an estimated 43,484 additional acres and continue science-driven, data-informed efforts to secure clean, abundant water in the basin. The Initiative provides a replicable model that can be used to improve water health across the country.

Threats to the Delaware River basin are significant, demanding a concerted response from private landowners and local officials to protect our natural resources.

The DRWI is tackling widespread pollution sources that harm clean water in our rivers and streams: erosion and runoff from deforested acres in headwaters; polluted runoff from agricultural fields; flooding and polluted stormwater from cities and suburbs; and a depleted aquifer in southern New Jersey. These growing problems will threaten drinking water for millions of people every day if left unaddressed.

“By design, the Delaware River Watershed Initiative aligns the work of 65 organizations in the watershed to accelerate conservation,” said Andrew Johnson, program director for watershed protection at the William Penn Foundation.

“The Initiative is rooted in the strength of these organizations individually and in their ability to collaborate using science to target the most important places for conservation. Together they are protecting and restoring those places, measuring the impact of their efforts on local streams, and learning collectively to improve their work,” Johnson said.


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