5 Things We Learned About the Delaware River Watershed From Four Local Experts
During our 4 States, 1 Watershed digital panel on Wednesday, May 27th, four panelists shared their insights on what we can do to keep the Delaware River Watershed healthy. The experts also noted considerations to make as we learn about the Delaware River Watershed’s connections to social, economic, and environmental spheres.
Our discussion featured:
- Kristen Bowman Kavanagh, Deputy Executive Director of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC)
- Erin McCool, Director of Education and Strategic Initiatives at Riverbend
- Elizabeth Brown, Director of Delaware River Watershed Programs, Audubon Pennsylvania
- Lee Clark, Environmental Justice Policy Manager, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters
Let’s get to what we learned.
5 Takeaways From Our 4 States, 1 Watershed Digital Panel
1. It’s not just about the environment. There is an economic case for protecting the Delaware River Watershed, too.
Making a case for the environment often requires speaking the “other” person’s language. And often, for politicians and decision makers, money talks.
Lee Clark supports local businesses by holding events at nature preserves and breweries, where lawmakers and constituents can witness the ties between policy, environmental health, and economic success.
“We want to be able to support green businesses dependent on water, like breweries, that need clean water for their products that boost the economy”, said Clark.
2. Those facing socioeconomic inequalities are most severely affected by Delaware Watershed mistreatment.
Black and brown people—and those experiencing poverty—have historically been disregarded by mainstream environmental movements. Yet, they are the most directly affected by environmental threats. Now more than ever, it’s important that we step aside and let these communities speak. As Lee Clark remarked:
“We need to do our part to not step on these toes, but to be an advocate, a champion, with them and for them. Because they have been fighting the EJ battle far before the campaign or the initiatives or the movement has, and they are the true experts on this. So when I go into these communities, I’m not telling them how I think things should be—I’m sitting down, shutting up, and I’m listening, because they’re the experts and I’m becoming more knowledgeable on these policy issues because of that.”
3. STEM knowledge is crucial for current and future problem-solving.
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), a United States government agency that ensures fair interstate water usage, is building a 3D model that spans from Trenton to the mouth of the Delaware Bay. “We do modeling work, both for spill response and in terms of looking at when an application for discharge happens”, says Deputy Executive Director Kristen Bowman Kavanagh.
Erin McCool, Director of Education and Strategic Initiatives at Riverbend Environmental Education Center also emphasized the importance of STEM education. Students and educators are often unfamiliar with what a watershed is, and teaching fundamentals like the water cycle helps young people understand the connections between the health of the watershed and its impact on numerous other earth systems.
4. Environmental improvements can inspire further action.
Elizabeth Brown, Audubon’s Director of Delaware River Watershed Programs, said the progress made in improving the health of the watershed has provided a safe haven for migratory bird species. Since the watershed is where birds often stop to rest, refuel, and prepare for the rest of their journey, its protection is especially crucial.
5. You can make a difference at home.
Everyone can contribute to preserving the watershed. Call your representative to share your opinion, hold a community meeting to educate others and spread awareness, and commit to making environmentally informed choices in your daily life.
Kristen Bowman Kavanagh has an easy at-home tip to reduce your plastic output. “If you have fleece clothing, try not to wash it and invest in something different in the future. When you wash it, microplastics come off and can’t be removed in the water treatment process”, said Bowman Kavanagh.