Strategy Overview

Watershed Protection Program

The Foundation’s Watershed Protection Program aims to create the long-term conditions — the practices, policies, and public engagement — that will ensure the Delaware River Watershed supports aquatic life and recreation in and on the water. To this end, we support work to concentrate land protection and restoration practices that maintain and improve stream health in targeted sub-watersheds; secure robust and sustained regulatory protections and funding; and achieve equitable and widespread public access to and engagement with our rivers and streams. We approach this work through three distinct yet complementary strategies: Watershed Wide, Targeted Sub-Watersheds, and Constituency Building.


Targeted Sub-Watersheds Strategy

Through this strategy, we fund on-the-ground conservation work to address key threats to clean water in this basin: forest loss, stormwater, and runoff from agricultural fields. To have a measurable impact on water quality in a large geography, we focus our conservation funding strategically in targeted places to secure healthier sub-watersheds with higher water quality. We support the protection of critical forested land which naturally filters water, and a suite of land restoration practices that mitigate water pollution that comes from paved surfaces and agricultural fields. We also dedicate funding to ongoing monitoring to accurately assess the impact of this work.

Our support aims to:

  • Use scientific modeling to prioritize future conservation projects and quantify their projected impact. Our funding has helped to develop tools that can predict the effect on water quality of specific projects in precise locations, helping conservation organizations to pinpoint their work and maximize their outcomes.
  • Concentrate a critical mass of conservation projects in strategically targeted places by tasking NGOs with aligning their work.
  • Monitor for changes in water quality through water sampling to assess the effect of our work. Our funding supports more than 500 monitoring sites throughout the watershed, aligned with where conservation work is happening.


Delaware River Watershed Initiative

Our waterways have made a remarkable comeback over the past 50 years thanks to federal regulations limiting pollution from pipes. However, widespread and increasing sources of pollution resulting from overdevelopment and land use are threatening this progress, and they are much harder to regulate. Our lead funding of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) addresses these disparate sources of pollution by aligning the work of dozens of NGO partners including conservation organizations, land trusts, and research institutions to protect and restore water quality in eight carefully selected clusters of sub-watersheds within the basin, where science indicates we can have a demonstrable impact on stream health. To learn more about the DRWI, click here.


Stormwater in Philadelphia

The City of Philadelphia has been recognized for its nationally significant work to address stormwater pollution, updating an antiquated combined sewer system which sends toxic raw sewage straight into nearby rivers when the system becomes overwhelmed – after as little as a 1/10 inch of rainfall. With rainfall increasing every year, this poses significant threats to the health of our rivers. Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters plan centers on green stormwater infrastructure, or nature-based solutions, over the traditional “gray” infrastructure of tunnels and tanks to manage stormwater; it proposes the use of soil, vegetation, and natural processes to soak up and filter stormwater to keep pollution out of the sewer system – and our waterways.

We fund policies and projects related to designing, financing, and installing green stormwater infrastructure in support of Green City, Clean Waters. Additionally, these nature-based solutions can provide a host of co-benefits for Philadelphia neighborhoods on top of cleaning up waterways, including addressing urban blight, reducing heat stress, and fostering workforce development among those facing underemployment. To this end, we also support policies and programs that maximize co-benefits, including career training and development for “green collar” jobs that can advance the Green City, Clean Waters vision.