The Delaware River and Upper Delaware River Watershed

About the Delaware River

The Delaware River and its watershed are home to some of the most important ecological features on the East Coast. The 330-mile river spans five states, is home to more than 45 fish species and supports bird and mammal species, including the bobcat, coyote, and our national bird, the bald eagle. Spanning 200 miles along the border of NJ and PA is the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, home to valuable hemlock tree ravines as well as nearly 200 lakes and ponds. Additionally, the river provides drinking water for 13.3 million people.

The Delaware River was named 2020 “River of the Year” by American Rivers, a nationwide organization committed to protecting wild rivers, restoring damaged ones, and conserving clean water for people and nature. American Rivers’ celebration of the Delaware River is an exciting step in our quest to raise awareness about the river and advocate for its protection. A little over fifty years ago, the river was heavily polluted and filled with sewage, uninhabitable for marine life and negatively impacted local communities. Fast forward to today, the Delaware River is much healthier due to monetary support and recognition at the federal level, and because of the broad coordination of restoration efforts by various state agencies, academic institutions, and advocacy groups. Click here to learn more about this significant honor.

New York’s Upper Delaware River Watershed 

The entire Delaware River watershed encompasses a 12,800 square mile area and covers parts of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Broad support and coordination are necessary across state lines to ensure the health of the river. The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW) unites organizations throughout the region to advocate for protecting and restoring the Delaware River Basin.

New York’s Upper Delaware River Watershed is located in the Catskills and Southern Tier regions of the state. The river and its watershed provide tremendous economic, recreational, and ecological value to the state, including drinking water for New York City residents. Recreational activities attract over 5.5 million visitors to the region every year, and for good reason. The Delaware River features 73 miles of scenic and recreational parks in New York, as well as one of the finest coldwater wild trout fisheries in the country. The value of natural goods and services provided by the Delaware River’s ecosystems in New York State is $3.5 billion, illustrating how crucial the area is to the State’s economy. 

Unfortunately, the region south of the NYC drinking water reservoirs is underfunded, receiving less than 5% of available watershed funding from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund. Conservation efforts are especially important in the area, where 81 of the state’s 537 “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” call home. NYLCVEF works with the CDRW, Delaware River Watershed Initiative, and local NY-based organizations to advocate for and raise awareness about the importance of protecting the Upper Delaware River Watershed of New York State.  For more information on the economic, recreational, and ecological benefits of the Upper Delaware River Watershed in New York, see our fact sheet below.

Infrastructure in the Upper Delaware River Watershed

Green vs Gray Infrastructure

Green infrastructure attempts to bring the environmental benefits of an undisturbed landscape to developed land. Green infrastructure prioritizes water absorption and filtration with permeable surfaces, rain gardens, bioswales, and green roofs (among others). 

Incorporating green infrastructure techniques within the Upper Delaware River watershed is an effective way to protect and improve water quality. Conventional infrastructure, or “gray infrastructure,” is a typical component of developed land and is designed to prevent flooding. Gray infrastructure consists of impermeable surfaces, pipes, and drains that carry stormwater towards natural bodies of water. Run-off over impenetrable surfaces and through pipes and drains prevents the natural filtration that occurs when water moves through the ground. This filtration process promotes water quality and prevents pollutants from easily draining into tributaries and other surface water bodies. 

For more information, read our whitepaper on using green infrastructure in the Delaware River Watershed: “Spread it Out, Slow it Down, and Soak it In: Using Green Infrastructure in the Delaware River Watershed

Green Infrastructure at Home

All residents living in the Upper Delaware River watershed in NY can incorporate some aspect of green infrastructure techniques around their home. As part of our Keep it Green campaign, we encouraged residents in the UDR region to install green infrastructure such as rain barrels, rain gardens, and bioswales around their homes to decrease run-off and promote water filtration. Green infrastructure that increases vegetation can also improve air quality and beautify communities. 

For more suggestions on installing green infrastructure around your home, click here

Civic Engagement in the Watershed

Since joining the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, we worked to raise awareness about conservation issues in the region and increase civic engagement in the watershed.

Meet & Greet with State Senator Metzger

In 2019, NYLCVEF and our Delaware River Watershed partners held a Meet & Greet with State Senator Jen Metzger in Roscoe, NY. The event  focused on conservation work being done in the Upper Delaware River Watershed as well as water and land conservation issues in general. The event’s location at the Roscoe Beer Company underscores how important clean water is to the local economy, which relies on it for its tourism and craft beverage industries.

Candidate Forum for Congressional District 19

In 2018, NYLCVEF and our Delaware River Watershed partners held a candidate forum for Congressional District 19. Candidates John Faso and  Antonio Delgado fielded questions about their support for environmental issues with a focus on the Delaware River Watershed.

Delaware River Watershed Initiative

In 2016, the federal government passed the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act, an important piece of legislation which sought to fund restoration efforts throughout the watershed, and marked the beginning of the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program. Since 2017, NYLCVEF has participated in the Delaware River Watershed Initiative. The initiative was founded by the William Penn Foundation to protect the vital water source from threats including runoff from storms and agricultural fields, deforestation, and the depletion of groundwater. We have worked with the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed to protect this program and increase support for other local, state, and federal restoration programs vital to the watershed’s upkeep.

Read about our work to combat invasive knotweed in the region.

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