The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA) is federal legislation that creates the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP) in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The U.S. Congress passed the DRBCA on December 10, 2016 as part of a larger legislative package known as the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation Act.

The program:

  1. Develops a coordinated approach to identify, prioritize, and implement restoration and protection activities across the Basin.

  2. Provides a competitive grant and technical assistance program to support on-the-ground work by state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and universities.

The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act clearly affirms the Delaware River Watershed is a national priority, worthy of attention and resources currently given to other major watersheds across the country.

DRBCA Bill highlights:

  • Non-regulatory approach with a voluntary competitive grant and technical assistance program

  • Intended to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of public and private efforts, and complement existing funding programs operating in the Basin

  • Requires consultation with federal and state agencies, regional partnerships, local governments, and other organizations to develop a watershed-wide protection and restoration strategy that is science-based, cost-effective, and facilitates measurable outcomes

  • Authorizes $5 million annually for a competitive, matching grant and technical assistance program

The Delaware River Basin is a national treasure of great cultural, environmental, and ecological importance.”
— Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2015

Funding for the DRBCA:

In March 2018, Congress first appropriated $5 million in fiscal year 2018 funds to support the environmental and economic health of the Delaware River Watershed for restoration and conservation projects, as outlined in the Delaware River Basin Restoration Partnership and Program Framework that was created from the DRBCA.

The following August, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced the launch of the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund. Notably, of the 25 organizations that received funding, 15 are members of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.

Congress has approved $6 million in fiscal year 2019 for the Delaware River Basin.

Photo courtesy of the Delaware Nature Society

Photo courtesy of the Delaware Nature Society


What types of work Will benefit?

  • Water quality improvements

  • Habitat restoration and protection

  • Flood mitigation

  • Strategic planning to enhance resilience

  • Public access and recreation

  • Planning, monitoring, and research

Why is the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act Needed?

Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli

Photo by Nicholas A. Tonelli

Nationally Significant Resource

For years, other major watersheds in the United States have benefited from dedicated funding sources that have provided hundreds of millions of dollars annually for regional protection and restoration efforts. The Delaware River Watershed is among the nation's most important systems in terms of vital resources it provides to people, fish, and wildlife, yet it receives a fraction of the funding and attention given to other regions. It's time to address this imbalance and ensure that the resources we rely on today are here for the generations that follow.

Photo from the National Park Service

Photo from the National Park Service

The Basin is an historical icon and today is home to nationally significant assets including one of the country's most visited National Park units, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area; more than 400 miles of National Wild and Scenic Rivers; six National Wildlife Refuges; and one of the largest systems represented in the National Estuary Program.

Drinking Water for the Region

More than 15 million people rely on the Basin for drinking water - approximately 5% of the nation's population!

It's the only watershed that supplies drinking water to two of the five largest cities in the United states, New York City and Philadelphia.

Photo by R'lyeh Imaging

Photo by R'lyeh Imaging


  • Contributes $25 billion annually in economic activity

  • Supports an internationally renowned cold water fishery that generates over $21 million in annual revenue through tourism and recreational activities

  • Supports important commercial fisheries in the Delaware Estuary valued at over $35 million annually


  • Contributes approximately $21 billion annually in ecosystem goods and services

  • The Delaware River is the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi

  • Internationally recognized for its important shorebird migration sites

  • Provides habitat for over 200 resident and migrant fish species, includes significant recreational fisheries, and is an important source of easter oyster, blue crab, and the largest population of American horseshoe crabs

Photograph by Nicholas A. Tonelli.