|Audubon recently added the Delaware River Watershed to its national Water initiative, joining iconic ecosystems including the Great Lakes and Florida’s Everglades.|
Everyone lives in one, but what, exactly, is a watershed? Simply put, it describes the area of land that feeds a particular waterway, like a stream, river, lake or wetland.
In the case of the Delaware River Watershed, rain that falls and water that runs in streams throughout 13,500 square miles across parts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania eventually makes its way into the Delaware River and Delaware Bay. Along the way, small waterways grow and form larger tributaries including the Lehigh, Schuylkill and Christina Rivers.
To be sure, the Delaware River Watershed has had its ups and downs since 1651, when the river was first named for Thomas West, Lord De La Warre. It once teemed with shad, sturgeon and steamboats, and later harbored so-called dead zones where the river was unable to support fish and other aquatic life.
But in the 20th Century, a wave of state and federal environmental regulation, notably the Clean Water Act, and regional partnerships like the Delaware River Basin Commission, marked a critical turning point for the watershed.
Just this month, the Delaware River was named 2020 River of the Year, in recognition of its improved water quality, ecosystem restoration and community revitalization.
As we celebrate this success, our work continues. Climate change, excessive stormwater, invasive species, wetland loss and water pollution all pose unique challenges to the watershed’s health for birds and people.