DELAWARE RIVER WATERSHED — The William Penn Foundation (WPF) is well known in the Philadelphia area. In early October, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported that the foundation gave a $5 million grant to the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation to help pay for increased public access to the city’s waterfront.
That came after another $5 million grant in 2010, which was leveraged to raise more funds to pay for several projects including the construction of two Delaware River trails and a pier park.
In another line of interest, according to a report from WHYY radio in Philadelphia, the foundation gave a grant of $1.4 million to help Roxborough High School become the first school in Philadelphia “to offer career and college-preparatory programming to 100% of its students.”
In one of its newest endeavors, WPF is targeting the entire Delaware River Watershed. An announcement from Laura Sparks, the chief financial officer of WPF, was released on October 29, which said, “the Foundation is directing significant funding toward impacting the entire watershed and is interested in creating a ‘Vision for the Watershed.’ The Foundation plans to impact the Delaware basin by addressing watershed-wide issues; protecting and restoring places of ecological significance; and building the constituency for the watershed by engaging people.”
The announcement came amid a two-day event sponsored by WPF called “Accelerating Action, The Delaware River Watershed Forum.” The event attracted over 60 NGOs including PennFuture, New Jersey Audubon and Common Waters, as well as state and federal regulators and others.
As many in the Upper Delaware Valley are aware, water from the Delaware River Watershed provides drinking water for more than 15 million people on the east coast. Some of the water in the watershed is sequestered in the New York City reservoirs and transferred through the reservoir system to New York City. The rest of the water in the watershed goes into the Delaware River which provides drinking water to Philadelphia, Trenton and other municipalities.
A press release from WPF said, “The Delaware River Basin is an ecological and economic jewel. It encompasses 13,000 square acres and provides 5% of the drinking water of the United States. The basin has an annual economic value of $25 billion and its ecosystem services are valued at $683 billion. It is also the engine for 600,000 jobs. President John Fry of Drexel University noted, ‘There are few things more important than preserving and protecting our Delaware River Watershed.’ He added that protection of ‘watersheds require a commitment to the long-view.’”
During the luncheon keynote, Jerry Kauffman, professor of water science and policy at the University of Delaware, said, “an ounce of prevention or protection of the pristine headwaters is worth a pound of cure by way of restoration after the fact,” noting the incredible economic value of a clean Delaware River. He closed the forum by quoting Winston Churchill, noting, “this is just the end of the beginning.”