How can what happens in the Catskill Mountains up in New York have an effect on the marine creatures down in the Delaware Bay, or the drinking water supply for people that live in Trenton or Philadelphia? It’s a watershed manager’s job to find out.
The Delaware River Basin is a great example of watershed management practices in action. The nearly 13,000 square miles of land that drain to the Delaware River are rich and diverse. In the Upper Delaware, the land is dominated by scenic, natural landscapes and forests, with abundant recreational opportunities on and around the river. As the river flows south, the basin is increasingly urbanized and the river is used more for industry and navigation. Finally, the river becomes an estuary as it approaches the Atlantic Ocean, with wetlands and other unique habitats. Along the way, over 15 million people use the basin for drinking water, including the water exported from the basin to the residents of New York City. All told, a whopping 8.7 billion gallons of water from the Delaware River Basin are put to use every day.
Because of the various ways the Delaware River is used, the protection of this resource is managed differently in different areas of the basin based on local needs and priorities. And yet, how the water (as well as land) is managed and used in one part of the basin will inevitably have an impact on other parts of the basin. And since the river basin spans political boundaries (draining from parts of four states, 42 counties, and 838 municipalities), collaboration and holistic basin management is crucial. Coordination is now more important than ever, as the basin faces ever-evolving challenges, including increasing populations and demand for water, increasingly urbanized areas, possible effects of climate change, and changes in industry and commerce.
For these reasons, the Delaware River Basin Forum is taking both a regional and a local approach – discussing basin-wide issues as well as local issues through the connection of the satellite locations. Don’t forget that the forum is coming up on March 10!
These issues of integrated water management aren’t unique to the Delaware River Basin – any watershed approach must taken into account the many needs and uses of its waters in order to sustain its resources into the future. While local specifics may differ, there are many common drivers of watershed planning, and any basin can benefit from a focus on the regional-local connectedness that the Delaware River Basin Forum seeks to do. Government and non-government entities, as well as stakeholders like you, all have a crucial role to play in managing water resources in a sustainable way. In the Mid-Atlantic Region, we’ve done a lot of this kind of work in the Chesapeake Bay and other, smaller watersheds, but there are many examples all over the country – like the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, and Colorado River basin, just to name a few.
What are the most pressing water issues facing your area? Can you think of ways that meeting the water needs of your local area might affect parts of the larger basin either upstream or downstream from where you are?
About the Author: Christina Catanese has worked at EPA since 2010, and her work focuses on data analysis and management, GIS mapping and tools, communications, and other tasks that support the work of Regional water programs. Originally from Pittsburgh, Christina has lived in Philadelphia since attending the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.S. in Applied Geosciences with a Hydrogeology concentration. Trained in dance (ballet, modern, and other styles) from a young age, Christina continues to perform, choreograph and teach in the Philadelphia area.