Our Shared Waters: A Look at the Delaware River Basin
By Peter A. Eschbach, Director of External Affairs and Communications, Delaware River Basin Commission
When the William Penn Foundation’s Nathan Boon approached us at the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) last year, asking whether or not we might like some help with the Commission’s State of the Basin Report, we said, “Yes, but…”
The Commission is required to produce such a report every five years, but these reports are a bit technical – certainly not very readable by the average Basin resident. Additionally, the report is DRBC’s view of the Basin, and there are a lot of groups and people out there – including many of you reading this post – who have their own opinions on the Basin’s water quality, water quantity, aquatic species health, etc.
The William Penn Foundation (WPF) has enthusiastically supported a wider look at the Basin, getting input from non-profits and NGOs to regular members of the public. In short, what is the State of Our Basin? Following some eye-opening research about what people think about the Basin’s waters (e.g., more people than you would believe think the water is dirtier today than it was 50 years ago!), a multifaceted campaign was developed. Not wanting to call it the State of Our Basin (that’s a mouthful and the acronym SOOB just sounded silly), we have called the effort Our Shared Waters.
The campaign has several components. These include:
A Facebook page (check out and ‘like’ @OurSharedWaters) was launched, and within a couple of weeks had more than a thousand followers. Its fan-base continues to grow, most of whom are average citizens interested or concerned about the Basin’s waters, specifically their local watersheds. The page is a great way for organizations to spread the word about their events and activities to a basin-wide audience.
Can’t have a campaign without a webpage. So, we are building an Our Shared Waters site that we hope will serve as a central gathering point for the hundreds of organizations and people that are serious about their water, their watershed and their part in the larger interconnected Basin. This is coming soon.
A webpage that allows crowdsourced evaluations of individual watersheds within the Basin, as well postings of reports, upcoming activities and photos. Think “Yelp” for the Basin. This is currently in development.
Joint presences/attendance at community events around the Basin. For example, DRBC staff joined with volunteers from the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership at PA Senator Art Haywood’s block party in northwest Philadelphia. We handed out literature from the Partnership of the Delaware Estuary and exhibited new large plastic macroinvertebrate models from the Stroud Water Research Center. We partnered with the Steamboat SPLASH Floating Classroom at community events in Frenchtown and Trenton, NJ. We’ve also teamed up with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs minor league baseball team to demonstrate how to properly ‘mud’ a baseball with little leaguers.
We all know that your view of the river changes forever once you get on (and in) it. To that end, we are sponsoring experiential opportunities to do just that. Working with the Delaware River Sojourn, we created several “sojourn scholarships” that put people, some of whom had never been in a kayak, on the river for a day of paddling and learning. We plan to do that again next year, as well as partner with the Bayshore Center at Bivalve, NJ to get lots of people sailing on the river aboard the AJ Meerwald, a restored twin-masted oyster schooner.
While DRBC got the funding from WPF, and we facilitate Our Shared Waters’ different components, this isn’t a DRBC program. It belongs to all of us who work, play, and depend on the waters of the Delaware River Basin. So, if you haven’t already, join up! Follow on Facebook. Send us what’s going on in your corner of the Basin so we may pass it along. Got a logo and a website? Link them with Our Shared Waters. Just ask for more info.