The Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation has announced an additional investment of $42 million over three years in the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, one of the largest non-regulatory conservation efforts to protect and restore clean water in the country.
A collaborative effort involving sixty-five nongovernmental organizations, DRWI is applying a bottom-up model to protecting the watershed, the source of drinking water for some fifteen million people in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. About half the pollution in the system's waterways is the result of nonpoint source pollution that is difficult to address through regulation alone. In addition, rapid population growth and urban and suburban sprawl are driving significant impacts in the watershed, including the shrinking and fragmentation of forests and woodlands that are critical to protecting clean water. Left unaddressed, runoff from paved surfaces and agricultural fields carries pesticides, chemicals, and other toxins into streams and rivers, posing a threat to the safety of the region's drinking water.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the new funding includes $11 million for the Open Space Institute; $8 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; $3.21 million to the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University; $1.23 million to the Institute for Conservation Leadership; and $15.78 million to eight "clusters" of partner organizations. OSI and NFWF will receive an additional $3.5 million in support of ongoing work.
Launched in 2014, DRWI has mobilized local and regional organizations to methodically assess and monitor water quality in the Delaware system at more than five hundred sites. Over the last four years, the resulting data has driven decision-making and informed conservation projects that, collectively, will protect more than nineteen thousand acres in the watershed and restore an additional eighty-three hundred acres. Partners in the effort also have leveraged $72.7 million in additional public and private funds for collaborations, better data sharing, and the development of new modeling and monitoring tools.
"What is being tested through the Delaware River Watershed Initiative — both the collaboration and the marrying of strategies that can be measured through water quality improvements — could have implications for generations to come," said Dianne Russell, president of the Institute for Conservation Leadership. "Working together, partners are connecting each other's strengths and abilities to concentrate their efforts, resulting in both tangible change and the weaving together of relationships and capacities that will have other benefits to the environment and the people in the Delaware River Basin. The approach being tested in these 'laboratories' has the potential to expand to other locations across the watershed and beyond in the future."