The William Penn Foundation has announced a $35 million initiative to protect and restore water quality in the Delaware River watershed, a critical source of drinking water for more than fifteen million people.
The three-year initiative will fund a collaboration among leading conservation organizations to protect tens of thousands of acres of land from development, restore streams, test innovative approaches in ecologically significant places, and monitor results over time. Partners in the effort include the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Open Space Institute, and dozens of other organizations.
The Delaware River watershed — which covers more than 13,500 square miles stretching from upstate New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay — is being threatened by deforestation from commercial, residential, and energy development; chemical runoff from farms and lawns; and storm water runoff in major cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Camden, New Jersey. The initiative will target its efforts in eight regional sub-watershed "clusters" that will also serve as incubators for new approaches to expanding investment in water-quality initiatives.
The foundation has already awarded nearly $15 million to forty-six organizations in those clusters in support of project development, research, and community outreach and organizing efforts. It also awarded $10.2 million to the Open Space Institute, with $9 million of that earmarked for projects that will match the funds on a three-to-one basis; $7 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which will re-grant the funds in support of tree planting, stream restoration, and farm-focused water pollution activities; and $3.2 million to the Academy of Natural Sciences to collect and monitor data on the projects' impact.
It is hoped the data will enable the William Penn Foundation and others to make more informed, evidence-based decisions going forward, said Laura Sparks, chief philanthropy officer at the foundation. "We are eager to use the data collected to inform real-time adjustments, analyze the potential of these projects across the watershed, and magnify those results to catalyze widespread action grounded in high-quality science."