Photo: Kristen Saake-Blunk
About the Watershed Restoration Group
Stroud Water Research Center’s Watershed Restoration group engages the public in freshwater stewardship and watershed restoration by helping landowners implement best management practices and plant streamside forest buffers. We link research, education, and action on the ground to manage our most precious resource — fresh water.
Delaware River Watershed Initiative
Stroud Water Research Center is part of a groundbreaking, multi-year project to monitor, protect, and restore critical freshwater sources for 15 million people from New York to the mouth of the Delaware Bay.
Deforestation and runoff from farms, cities, and suburbs threatens the health of the Delaware River watershed. With funding from the William Penn Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and others, the Stroud Center’s Restoration Group is helping Berks and Chester County farmers implement pollution reduction practices and riparian forested buffers.
The wide-ranging initiative features eight ecologically significant “sub-watershed clusters” — about 25 percent of the total Delaware River Basin — across four states. Of these, Stroud Water Research Center is collaborating with over 14 organizations in the Brandywine-Christina, Middle Schuylkill and Schuylkill Highlands cluster groups. As this effort progresses, we will be using a variety of techniques to measure the ecological responses to these restoration efforts.
Stroud Farm Stewardship Program
“Raising the bar” is the hallmark of this program, designed to provide financial and technical assistance to enable farmers to install conservation measures to protect water quality.
In order to receive resources, participating farmers are asked to meet a high bar for conservation that includes: developing a current conservation plan to guide conservation efforts on the farm, addressing any runoff issues from barnyards or other animal concentration areas, complying with all state agricultural conservation regulations, and installing forested buffers at least 35-feet wide that exclude any livestock from streams.
Current funding also enables farmers to receive a voluntary assessment of their ability to generate tradable nutrient credits. Nutrient trading holds the potential to use market forces to secure cost-effective water quality improvements to meet society’s needs for clean water.
Low-Cost Methods for Buffer Plantings
This project helps develop methods for streamside reforestation with potential to be more effective at lower cost than current methods. Regional plans to restore watersheds rely heavily on forested buffers.
Current methods relying on tree shelters have some limitations and are rather expensive. This project develops and assesses alternative methods including natural regeneration, direct seeding, and use of live stakes (i.e., stem sections of species able to root and grow into new trees and shrubs).
River conservation, restoration, and preservation: rewarding private behavior to enhance the commons
Stroud Center director Bern Sweeney, Ph.D., and James Blaine propose that incentivization can and should supplement education and legislation in promoting the adoption of best management practices (BMPs), and explore how to incentivize BMPs to improve conservation, restoration, and preservation practices.
Streamside forest buffer width needed to protect stream water quality, habitat, and organisms: a literature review
The Stroud Center published a case study showing that creating a forest buffer can keep on average 43% of sediment and 27% of nutrients such as nitrogen from entering a stream. Forest buffers should be at least 30 meters, or nearly 100 feet, wide to adequately protect streams.
Watershed Restoration: A Shared Public and Private Investment
Study after study has shown that preventing pollution at its source is considerably cheaper and more effective than treating problems downstream. Helping landowners make needed improvements takes a combination of outreach, discussion, flexibility, and patience. But no amount of goodwill can surmount gaps in financing and technical knowledge, even where landowners are willing to commit their own dollars to projects that help downstream landowners and water supplies.
The Stroud Center’s Restoration Group taps a wide range of public and private funds to help landowners afford projects that can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, and often more.
Programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide the foundation for many of our restoration projects. It’s an “alphabet soup” of programs and acronyms, and we help landowners secure the best program funding to suit their farms and properties.
One such program deserves special mention is USDA’s Resource Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The Stroud Center and many partner groups and agencies have secured over $20 million dollars through RCPP to support agriculture conservation and restoration projects on farms in the Delaware and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.
Restoration in the News
- Senator Sees Results From Conservation Funding
- Sunn Hemp Acts as Covered Bridge Between Sweet Corn, Broccoli
- Conservation Awards Given to Stroud Center and Deep Roots Valley Farm
- Cover Cropping Column to Follow Farmers’ Efforts
- Studying How Best Management Practices Can Protect Drinking Water
- Ehrhart Re-Elected as Penn State Agricultural Council President
- Outreach For Healthy Streams
- A Holistic Approach to Restoring Streams