Delaware River Watershed Initiative Builds on Conservation Successes

Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership leading new wave of progress for clean water protection 

Delaware River Watershed Initiative Builds on Conservation Successes

Villanova University, through the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership, is leading a major project to protect clean water in the suburban Philadelphia region as a member of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI).

The William Penn Foundation announced more than $40 million in new funding for the DRWI, which is among the country’s largest non-governmental conservation efforts to protect and restore clean water. 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.

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 Upstream Suburban Philadelphia cluster, of which Villanova is a part, has built $4.7 million of new stormwater control measures at a dozen sites across the five cluster watersheds. The project’s primary investigator, Andrea Welker, PhD, PE, and her team of graduate and undergraduate students, are intensively monitoring and modeling three of these stormwater improvement sites. This continued collaboration will support the modeling and monitoring of new sites and further research into the long-term performance of stormwater control measures. “I’m incredibly excited to continue working with our cluster partners to improve water quality in the Delaware River watershed,” said Dr. Welker. “Our work is holistic in that we are not only performing sound research, we are working with watershed groups to encourage community engagement by informing them of our work.”

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.”

About the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership

The Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership's mission is to advance the evolving field of sustainable stormwater management and to foster the development of public and private partnerships through research. For more, including current projects and partners, visit the VUSP website.

About Villanova University

Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit www.villanova.edu.

About the Delaware River Watershed Initiative

The Delaware River Watershed Initiative is a collaboration of 65 leading nonprofit organizations that have developed shared action plans to reduce four priority threats to clean water. Informed by science, the Initiative is working in eight targeted areas, where analysis indicated that interventions could significantly safeguard or improve clean water. Together, these eight areas constitute 25 percent of the river basin and include portions of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. For more information, including a list of all participating organizations, visit www.4states1source.org.