Celebrating the Success and Future of the Brandywine-Christina Watershed
Clean Water: A Bi-State Solution
By: Jillian Young, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Delaware Water Resources Center
On May 3rd, 2018 over 160 people joined together to educate, learn, and celebrate the Brandywine-Christina Watershed at the Clean Water: A Bi-State Solution conference. The conference focused on the collaborative efforts made to improve the watershed health, ongoing projects being done, and a future focus on the next steps to ensure the health of the watershed.
The conference was held by the Brandywine-Christina Cluster Partners: Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art, Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, Natural Lands, Stroud Water Research Center, The Nature Conservancy of Delaware, and the University of Delaware Water Resources Center. These are six nonprofit organizations funded by the William Penn Foundation through the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI).
The morning started off with Andrew Johnson, the Program Director at the William Penn Foundation, speaking about the DRWI and how over the past seven years, they have distributed over $100 million dollars for clean water in the Delaware River Watershed. Despite these efforts, he said, “It’s still not enough.” More funds are needed to help the water’s health.
A joint talk included the Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Shawn Garvin, and Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Patrick McDonnell. Together, they spoke about the importance of the watershed health because the watershed incorporates the two states. Most of the land in the watershed is in Pennsylvania, but the majority of the population in Wilmington receives their drinking water from the headwaters in Pennsylvania.
Following these talks, Dr. Gerald Kauffman, Director of the University of Delaware Water Resources Center, spoke about the important history of the watershed which supported life for early settlers. He discussed the history of the mill dams on the river and how today, people can no longer ice skate on the Brandywine because of the climate’s warming temperatures.
Two panel sessions included presentations about water quality and collaborative work in the watershed. The first panel included Dr. John Jackson, Senior Research Scientist at the Stroud Water Research Center who discussed the influences of agriculture on the watershed, showing which streams are impaired and which areas are showing reductions in sediment loads. Four more presentations followed on topics including agricultural conservation practices, stream restoration projects, municipal ordinances, and the Brandywine-Christine Healthy Water Fund.
The second panel session provided an overview of projects from the federal and local government perspective. The panel included Shane Morgan, the Watershed Coordinator for the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River Program, who talked about how joint projects on land protection, outreach, education, and water quality monitoring, coupled with federal funding all help protect and keep the White Clay Creek healthy. Other panelists spoke about projects to protect Wilmington, Delaware’s water source and land preservation in Honey Brook Township, Pennsylvania.
The keynote speaker was Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. He expressed how impressed he is with the work being done in the watershed. He mentioned that as he travels around the country, he sees the Brandywine-Christina watershed as a model for others to follow, “we need to succeed to be a model for other areas.”
After lunch, conference attendees participated in a field tour. The tour included a restored stream and best management practices on a farm in Pennsylvania and the City of Wilmington’s Hoopes Reservoir on the Red Clay Creek in Delaware. At the reservoir, which has been closed to the public since the early '70s, conference attendees were invited to hike to the overlook to view the City’s backup water supply and a critical component of the City’s Source Water Protection Program.
Overall, the conference was a huge success and everyone gained something valuable from the day. Conference attendees also took home the recently-released 2018 State of the Watershed Report, which exhibits the status and trends within the Brandywine-Christina watershed.