The Delaware River Watershed Initiative, a wide-ranging collaboration between environmental groups seeking to protect water quality in the 13,500 square-mile area, is beginning to monitor and measure its progress since being launched in 2014.
The initiative, led by the William Penn Foundation, aims to shield the basin’s water supplies from forest loss, runoff from farms and storm drains, and aquifer depletion. It has spent the past two and a half years providing grants and coordinating the efforts of more than 40 conservation nonprofits.
Jon Hurdle reports in NJ Spotlight:
Now, the 10-year program is moving into a second phase in which it will assess progress toward its goal of restoring clean water across the watershed from upstate New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay.
“We need to prove to our board that this is working,” said Clare Billott, program officer for the DRWI, speaking at the biennial Delaware Estuary Science and Environmental Summit, a gathering of conservation groups brought together by the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.
With the foundation’s initial investment of $35 million, the program is a major effort to protect water in a region that supplies drinking water to some 15 million people. DRWI officials said the program would complement the new federal Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, which requires the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to coordinate the work of conservation groups in the region.
Billott said the foundation has provided $15 million a year since the initiative began, and has leveraged another $15 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $60 million from other sources.
While the funding may not yet have produced improvements in water quality throughout the watershed, it has helped to improve some local conditions, and has created an alliance of conservation groups that are jointly working toward common goals, Billott said.
“The biggest single thing that we got out of Phase 1 is that every one of these groups say that they are working with others,” she said.
In its upcoming second phase, the initiative’s managers will look at what participating groups have achieved, but they won’t be expected to have already hit their targets, Billott said.
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