Wheels for Water: Learning First-Hand about Wilmington’s Water

Wheels for Water: Learning First-Hand about Wilmington’s Water

By Martha C. Narvaez, Policy Scientist, University of Delaware Water Resources Center


On October 14th, a brisk Fall Sunday afternoon, approximately 20 water-minded cyclists could be spotted cruising Wilmington, Delaware’s city streets as part of “Wheels for Water”. This water-themed cycling event was designed to showcase some of the city’s prominent water features and projects. The tour was a cooperative event between cycling experts from Urban Bike Project of Wilmington, water experts from the City of Wilmington’s Public Works Department, and Delaware’s Clean Water Alliance.

Community members began their adventure at the Urban Bike Project of Wilmington and followed a bicycle-friendly route that included following the path of the City’s drinking water supply from its treatment at the Brandywine Water Treatment Plant back to where it is diverted into the Brandywine Raceway, which feeds the treatment plant, to the original source of the City’s drinking water supply, the Brandywine Creek. Brandywine Creek is a 20-mile tributary of the Christina River, and ultimately the Delaware River, and it flows from southeast Pennsylvania to northern Delaware.

Cyclists at Rockford Tower, one of Wilmington’s water storage features

Cyclists at Rockford Tower, one of Wilmington’s water storage features

After tracing the path of the water from its treatment back to its source, the cyclists learned about the City’s combined sewer overflow system while viewing one of the outfalls. The tour then visited the City’s historic Rockford Tower (pictured) and Cool Springs Reservoir, two of the City’s water storage features. The final two stops included the DuPont Environmental Education Center, an urban wildlife refuge located along the banks of the Christina River and the South Wilmington Wetland Park, a stormwater management facility that will restore and enhance wetlands and create a new park for the community.  

The organizers and leaders of this collaborative event included:

  • Leah Kacanda, Project Manager, City of Wilmington Office of Economic Development

  • Laura Miller, Outreach Coordinator, Delaware Nature Society

  • Martha Narvaez, Policy Scientist, University of Delaware Water Resources Center

  • Sally O’Byrne, Life-long Delawarean, Community Member

  • Laura Wilburn, Executive Director, Urban Bike Project

The Urban Bike Project, which cosponsored Wheels for Water, supports the Wilmington community by providing access to bicycling as a healthy, affordable, and practical means of transportation and recreation. The University of Delaware Water Resources Center is a steering committee member of the Clean Water Alliance, an initiative to educate people about the importance of clean water and a coalition of organizations and stakeholders working together across the state to secure funding for clean water. The City of Wilmington’s Bryan Lennon also joined the group at multiple locations to provide his water expertise and the City’s perspective. At each location, ride leaders explained the importance of water in context of the site and answered questions from the participants.   

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Showcasing the City’s water features served to connect the cyclists to some of the City’s most critical water infrastructure that is often unnoticed or misunderstood. During the tour, the leaders emphasized that water quality touches so many parts of our lives and the visible examples of the tour showcased this; from the source of Wilmington’s water supply, to its treatment, storage and the natural spaces that help to filter the polluted runoff produced by the many paved roads and sidewalks. The Wheels for Water group learned that water quality is so critical to our everyday lives that over 50 stakeholders from the business, conservation, academic, and nonprofit communities have come together in the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign to support a dedicated funding stream for clean water projects in Delaware. Some of the campaign’s members recognize water quality’s importance to public health, while others are focused on what water quality means to our ecosystem and wildlife. Many recognize that a decline in water quality would mean a decline in the quality of our life as city residents and the economy of the city overall.

From small-scale aspects like biking through the Wilmington on a Fall day, to essential needs like our health and well-being - clean water must be a cornerstone issue. In Wilmington and across the state, we must continue to invest in water now so that we can continue to enjoy beautiful bike rides along the Brandywine Creek and Christina River, while also improving our overall environmental health and our economy.

Following the Wheels for Water tour, attendees gathered at a happy hour at Stitchhouse Brewing Company, one of Wilmington’s newest microbreweries in the heart of downtown, to continue the discussion on clean water, its importance in the City’s newest microbreweries, and the role of the Clean Water Alliance. Learn how you can get involved in protecting our essential water resources at www.cleanwaterdelaware.org.