Cross-sector partnership works to improve Delaware River Watershed

blogimage_DelawareRiverWatershedSiblings Melissa MacNeill and Eric and Matt Davis follow six generations of family farmers at Parvin Farms in New Jersey. And a recent cross-sector partnership is enabling them to continue their family’s legacy for a seventh generation while also working to conserve and protect their home — the Delaware River Watershed.

Grant and program partners the William Penn Foundation, the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Resources Conservation Service, and the New Jersey Audubon Society are working with private farms like Parvin to help farmers pay for farming practices that conserve water, protect water quality, and prevent soil erosion.

In the case of Parvin Farms — where the siblings work 550 acres of corn, soybeans, and hay — the partnership is enabling the siblings to purchase a new irrigation system that will use less water and fuel, while also better watering their crops. (The old mechanism not only crushed crop but also led to a large amount of water runoff and waste.) The new irrigation system comes with a six-figure pricetag — a purchase the brothers and sister say would not have been possible without the help of the partnership.

Parvin is one of nine farms receiving assistance through the collaboration to protect the Delaware River, which 15 million people depend on for drinking water. “Our ultimate goal is water quality improvement for a system that is basically in decent shape and we want to make sure it stays in decent shape,” said Rachel Dawson, Senior Manager of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Delaware River Program.

According to recent coverage of the initiative, Eric Davis said, “These were things we dreamed about and talked about but thought would never really happen. But in the past three years in these public-private partnerships they have become a reality for us. We’re excited about where it’s going to lead in the future.”

Brother Matt Davis added, “Hopefully it lays the foundation for the next generation.”

While the partners and context are different, the aim of this collaboration is similar to that of the Buffalo River Restoration Partnership, profiled recently on our blog. In this case, intersector partners leveraged more than $75 million in public and private funds to remove toxic pollutants from the river and will soon begin work to improve the shoreline and restore wildlife habitats along this once-dead river. The Elizabeth River Project in Virginia — an intersector collaboration profiled in our Case Library — offers yet another example of partners from across sectors working to improve one one of the most industrialized rivers in the country.

Environmental initiatives like these illuminate the unique and valuable contributions each sector can make to a vision that is shared across sectors — a preserved and protected river and watershed. While non-profit and government partners in this case may provide funding and expertise, farmers like the owners of Parvin Farms have power to dramatically improve the water quality by changing their practices. For more examples of cross-sector collaboration in environmental conservation, see our Case Library.