Delaware River Watershed Initiative

The Delaware River Watershed Initiative brings together more than 40 groups working together, with funding from the William Penn Foundation, to protect and restore critical sources of drinking water.


Upstream Suburban Philadelphia Cluster

PEC leads a cluster of Philadelphia suburban  watershed groups in a multi-year initiative to protect and restore critical sources of drinking water in the Delaware River watershed.

In all, more than 40 of the nation’s leading environmental and conservation organizations will share $35 million in grant funding from the William Penn Foundation. We are one of eight urban watershed cluster leaders selected to administer this project and will spend three years collaborating with other groups to restore water flows and water quality in order to support greater diversity and populations of aquatic and terrestrial species throughout the watershed.

The PEC team includes: Lower Merion Conservancy, Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed PartnershipWissahickon Valley Watershed AssociationFriends of the Poquessing CreekTemple University Center for Sustainable Communitiesand Villanova University.

The Delaware River watershed is a strategic focus for the William Penn Foundation because it covers more than 13,500-square miles spanning New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware and provides drinking water for 15 million people. In addition, the watershed supports a broad spectrum of water-related economic enterprises valued at $25 billion per year, as well as a number of significant habitats. Deforestation from commercial, residential, and energy development along with chemical runoff from farms and stormwater runoff in cities severely threaten the health of the watershed.

The focus of the Philly Upstream initiative will be the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure “on the ground” and municipal policies to regulate and manage stormwater run-off in heavily populated suburban communities outside of Philadelphia. Covering just 135 square miles, these small watersheds are home to nearly 400,000 Pennsylvanians. We will lead the development and execution of an Outreach and Education strategy to be coordinated with each of the watershed partners. In the Poquessing Creek watershed, PEC works directly with the Friends of Poquessing to develop effective programs and build the capacity and reach of this small group.

Among some of the other organizations participating in this program are the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Open Space Institute.

Across the entire Delaware River watershed, the goal of this project is to permanently protect more than 30,000 acres, implement more than 40 restoration projects, pilot new incentives for landowners and businesses, provide replicable models for other locations in the watershed, and develop long-term water quality data for the watershed at an unprecedented scale.

Tidal Delaware River Restoration

The Delaware River, like many urban rivers, is undergoing a 21st century transformation. A network of greenways, parks, and trails are being stitched into landscapes long dominated by industrial activities. With this comes increasing opportunities for people to walk, fish, bird watch, or otherwise enjoy the natural resources of the upper Delaware River Estuary. As efforts expand to re-connect people to their urban rivers, PEC seeks ways to restore the ecology of the riverfront.

Ecological restoration features could include upland meadows, riverbank forests, and freshwater tidal wetlands, which provide opportunities for native plants and animals that inhabit these areas. Restoring these habitats will create homes and stop over points for the rich variety of wildlife species found along the Delaware River, including: American black ducks and great blue herons, bald eagles and osprey, shad and shortnose sturgeon, leopard frogs and red bellied turtles, freshwater mussels, and blue crabs.

Our ecological restoration effort is focused on the North Delaware River Waterfront in Philadelphia. We work closely with the Delaware River City Corporation as they design and construct a trail network along the riverfront and with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation as they secure parkland along the river’s edge. PEC engages many other partners including but not limited to: DuPont Clear Into the Future; Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Philadelphia Water Department, Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.

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