Water

Delaware River Watershed

Red Knots in Delaware Bay. Photo: Raymond Hennessy/Alamy

Covering 13,500 square miles and four states—Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware—the Delaware River Watershed is a diverse landscape of more than 35 ecological systems and 185 natural communities. It provides important year-round habitats and critical migratory stopovers for approximately 400 bird species.

More than 13.3 million people obtain clean, abundant water from the Delaware River Watershed, including 4.5 million residents of New York City, as well as Philadelphia, Allentown and Trenton.

The watershed is a significant economic driver, grossing more than $25 billion annually in economic activity and $21 billion in ecosystem goods and services each year, as well as contributes 600,000 jobs and $10 billion in annual wages to the economy. 

In January 2019, Audubon launched the Brewers for the Delaware River, which now includes a coalition of nearly 20 craft brewers, to promote the protection of the watershed as a reliable, clean water source that benefits the people, birds, and communities of the region. 

Headwaters to Capes

The Upper Watershed is dominated by mature, even-aged forests. Audubon manages these forests for sustainability, profitability and habitat suitability for key species, including the iconic Wood Thrush. Forest preservation in this region of New York and northeastern Pennsylvania also serves a critical role in watershed health, preserving water quality and regulating temperature in headwater streams.

In the Central Watershed, forests give way to urbanization, agriculture, energy infrastructure, and other fragmenting uses. The Lehigh and Schuylkill Rivers are the largest tributaries in this region, containing an expansive network of wetlands and streamside habitats supporting abundant and diverse bird communities.  

Greater Philadelphia, Camden, Wilmington, and the Greater Lehigh Valley in the Central Watershed experience stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflows, which contribute to degraded water quality in these population centers, as well as face increased flooding and extreme weather events.  

In the Lower Watershed, the Delaware Bay suffers from stressors like nutrient pollution and sea-level rise that are degrading bird habitats along salt marshes and beaches. Overfishing and reduced oxygen cause declining forage fish populations, a vital food source for migratory shorebirds that depend on the Delaware Bay as a key migratory stopover site along the Atlantic Flyway.

Audubon's Vision

Audubon's vision connects conservation from the headwaters to the capes of the Delaware River, focusing on the places and issues most important to birds. We will work to address habitat loss and degradation, water pollution and the spread of invasive species through on-the-ground restoration efforts, policy initiatives, and education and engagement with a robust network of chapters, members and partners.