Report Urges Strong Action to Protect the Delaware River, even as Trump administration proposes to weaken Clean Water Act
Environment America Research & Policy Center and our state partners today issued our report and recommendations to address threats to Delaware River watershed water quality, based on its first-of-its-kind interactive map of the Delaware River watershed. The report, “Threats to Clean Water in the Delaware River Basin: Insights from the Interactive Online Map & Recommendations,” urges policymakers to use the full suite of tools under the Clean Water Act to protect the Delaware River watershed. The report comes on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposal to dramatically scale back streams and wetlands under federal protection.
“The Delaware River is a vital source of water for drinking, wildlife, and recreation,” said John Rumpler, clean water program director at Environment America Research & Policy Center. “This vital waterway needs stronger protections from pollution, not plans to undermine the Clean Water Act.”
The product of a more than a year and a half of effort, the map and recommendations draw on more than 5,000 data points from over a dozen sources to major pollution threats in the basin, including: 1) runoff from agriculture and impervious surfaces; 2) 660+ industrial sources; 3) 250+ sewage treatment plants; and 4) fossil fuel infrastructure such as pipelines, abandoned coal mines, and refineries. The map allows the public to see pollution sources in their own neighborhoods, as well as those upstream. “Threats to Clean Water in the Delaware River Basin” charts the way forward for the public – and decision-makers – to improve water quality across the watershed.
“When it comes to water quality in the Delaware River basin, everything is connected,” said Tony Dutzik, senior policy analyst at Frontier Group, which played a major role in developing the report and map. “These recommendations to improve water quality build on the insights our interactive map provides residents of the watershed, highlighting the water quality challenges their local waterways face and how they can be solved.”
In addition to the map and report recommendations, Environment America Research & Policy Center also released a set of fact sheets summarizing the data and outlining key solutions for reducing each type of pollution.
“The Delaware River Watershed supplies 15 million people with drinking water, yet serious water quality threats highlight the urgent need for federal funding and watershed-wide planning. In particular, robust federal funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program directly translates into on-the-ground restoration and conservation projects, supporting a protected watershed and healthier environment for generations to come,” said Sandra Meola, Director of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.
The map marks a key milestone in the work of the group’s state affiliates protect the Delaware River watershed – including protections for high quality waterways in New Jersey, keeping fracking and its waste out of the watershed, and defending protections of the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands. Yet, as the map and recommendations show, much more work is needed.
“Environment America’s new interactive map is a powerful tool for understanding where water protections are needed most,” said Joseph Minott, Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council. “We intend to use it to focus our efforts and encourage others to do so as well.”
“PennFuture is pleased to see that the recommendations in Environment America’s report track many of PennFuture’s priorities to improve the water quality of the Delaware River Basin,” said Jacquelyn Bonomo, president and executive director of PennFuture. “Both the report and the map provide valuable tools for us to better educate our members, local groups, and policymakers on the threats and opportunities throughout the Basin.”
The report recommendations, which are aimed at an audience of public officials, businesses, residents and the press, are focused on responding to recognized threats and to restore water quality, and include: 1) Keeping pollution threats away from waterways. 2) Preventing pollution before it occurs. 3) Setting and enforcing tough limits on pollution. 4) Improving the quality of environmental information and engage the public. 5) Investing in restoration. 6) Ensuring the Clean Water Act remains strong, including federal protections for the basin’s streams and wetlands.
“The Delaware River watershed has come back from the brink over the last half century. The recommendations build on what the public knows – our water quality has gotten better, but the watershed isn’t healed yet. Our new interactive map gives residents the power to see the threats our watershed face – and now these recommendations give the public and decisionmakers the tools to heal our waters,” said Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.