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Philadelphia Field Station

Delaware River Urban Waters Federal Partnership

[image:] Delaware River from Chester, PA photo taken during Community of Practice site visit.  Photo by Sarah Low, US Forest Service.The Forest Service and other agencies of the USDA have been major partners in the national effort called Urban Waters Federal Partnership. The goal of Urban Waters Federal Partnership is to band together to develop strategies and leverage resources to reduce the negative impacts of urbanization on water quality, while reclaiming and restoring impacted riverfronts and economically revitalizing depressed areas. 

Delaware River

A wide range of federal, state, regional, local, and non-governmental organizations are part of the Delaware River Urban Waters Partnership. The Delaware River is the longest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi River, extending 330 miles from upstate New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, traveling through 4 states. Over 15 million people rely on the Delaware River Basin for drinking water as well as agricultural, recreational, and industrial use. The watershed encompasses several major urban areas as well as the surrounding suburban and rural landscapes. The negative effects of urbanization have created many challenges, including stormwater runoff, erosion, flooding issues, loss of wildlife habitat, lack of public access to rivers and waterfronts, environmental injustice, and reduced overall waterway health. The Philadelphia Field Station plays an active role in coordinating a dialogue among federal agencies and between these agencies and community organizations. At the Delaware River location, the Forest Service acts as the representative for the USDA and works most closely with National Park Service, NOAA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Geological Survey. This effort aims to bring people together, identify needs, and work towards solutions. 


Geographic Focus

The primary geographic focus of this effort is on the metropolitan Philadelphia, including Camden NJ, Chester PA, and Wilmington DE. Among the accomplishments associated with Urban Waters Federal Partnership was the first annual youth paddling event held in each city in cooperation with Wilderness Inquiry, which engaged more than 440 students and 60 school chaperones and staff with the Delaware River. In April 2014, the first full partnership meeting was held and had 120 participants, including 10 federal agencies, for a series of panels on environmental themes important to this area. Themes were: brownfields; parks, trails, and open space; river restoration; climate resiliency; and water quality and quantity. The full-partners meeting led to the establishment of “communities of practice” for each of the identified main theme areas promoting peer-to-peer sharing of information and resources. This is proving to be a useful way for federal agencies to engage directly with communities. Trees, education, and river access are focus areas that cut across all of the themes. In addition, the Urban Waters Ambassador maintains a cross-sector partnership contact list, now totaling more than 300 individuals representing 115 organizations across multiple sectors (federal, state, municipal, regional, nonprofit, and academic) in all four cities. This contact list is used to share grants, events, and other opportunities. A public education and clearinghouse website has been developed on