Stroud Water Research Center recently received a $1.26 million grant from the William Penn Foundation to monitor water quality of regional sub-watersheds in the Delaware River Basin.
This follows two $400,000 grant awards from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Growing Greener Fund to help Berks and Chester County farmers implement pollution reduction practices.
The $1.26 million William Penn Foundation grant is part of a $35 million, three-year project divided among 46 environmental organizations that will collaborate to monitor, protect and restore freshwater sources for 15 million people from upstate New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay.
The Delaware River watershed covers more than 13,500 square miles, spanning New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Significant stressors threatening the health of the watershed include deforestation and runoff from farms, cities and suburbs.
The wide-ranging initiative features eight ecologically significant “sub-watershed clusters” – about 25 percent of the total Delaware River Basin – across four states. Of these, Stroud Water Research Center will collaborate with 14 organizations in the Brandywine – Christina, Middle Schuylkill and Schuylkill Highlands cluster groups.
“This project is unprecedented in its scope and scale,” said Bernard Sweeney, director and senior research scientist at Stroud Water Research Center. The organization will use the funds primarily to monitor water quality in assigned regions.
“Monitoring water quality across multiple clusters in different regions, and over time, will quantify water quality improvements along an extended length of a stream, not just a small part of it,” Sweeney said. “This creates a new model that will inform watershed restoration and management practices today and 50 years from now, across the country and, ultimately, across the world.”
To determine water quality in the various sub-watersheds, Stroud Water Research Center will primarily measure the number and types of macroinvertebrates – -animals without a backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and worms, said John Jackson, senior research scientist and head of the Stroud Water Research Center entomology department. This widely accepted practice is based on knowing which types of macroinvertebrates are more sensitive to pollution.
The Brandywine-Christina cluster will address water quality issues in a varied landscape that includes agricultural, urban and suburban uses. More than half of the 781 miles of streams in the Brandywine-Christina area are classified as “impaired.” This “sub-watershed” of the Delaware River provides water for agriculture, recreation, forests, parks and wildlife, as well as drinking water for 500,000 people living in Honey Brook, Downingtown and West Chester, and Wilmington and Newark, Del.
In addition to water quality monitoring, Stroud Water Research Center will work with the Brandywine Conservancy in the Brandywine-Christina cluster team to restore portions of Sharitz Run, a tributary to Brandywine Creek. Planned improvements to this area include installing 5.5 miles of fencing to exclude livestock from streams, and planting 39,000 trees to restore 12 miles of 1 riparian (streamside) forested buffer. Stream-side forested buffers filter pollutants and make substantial improvements to streams.
The cluster team will also plant about 11,300 trees along 6.5 miles of the East Branch of the White Clay Creek. The goal in both Sharitz Run and the White Clay is to restore the streams so that they can once again support self-sustaining wild trout populations.
The team will also improve more than 10 miles along the West Branch of the Brandywine Creek in Honey Brook. The restoration goal is to make improvements that eventually reclassify the stream from impaired to unimpaired.
Stroud Water Research Center collaborators in the Brandywine-Christina cluster include the Brandywine Conservancy, Brandywine Valley Association, Natural Lands Trust, The Nature Conservancy in Delaware, and the Water Resources Agency of the University of Delaware.
The Watershed Restoration group at Stroud Water Research Center began its outreach in both clusters last month when it hosted an event with the Chester County Conservation District and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center aimed at teaching equestrians how to reduce water pollution and improve their livestock’s health.
More recently, the Watershed Restoration group hosted two workshops for landowners, March 31 in Shartlesville, Pa. and April 2 in Myerstown, Pa. The group will help participating farmers in Berks and Lebanon counties reduce agricultural pollution of freshwater ecosystems.