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Common Waters

Pinchot focus areas:

Climate & Energy
Common Waters Fund
The Common Waters Fund is a project of the Common Waters Partnership led by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation. With a generous pilot grant from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities aimed at supporting the direct link between healthy, abundant forests and clean drinking water downstream, the Fund was launched in early 2011.

Common Waters Fund LogoThe goal of the Common Waters Fund is to collaborate with water utilities and other entities to link water consumers in downstream communities with the natural resources in the Upper Delaware River watershed that provide clean water. Upstream, the program will provide forest landowners with financial incentives to sustainably manage and conserve forests in order to protect sources of high-quality drinking water. Downstream, an educational program for local governments and the general public on the connections between forests and the faucet will be implemented to encourage participation and investment by water users. The acceleration of sustainable forest management in the Upper Delaware River region will conserve critical sources of drinking water for millions of people while also benefiting wildlife habitat, the local forest products economy, and the health of forest-reliant communities.

Map of the Upper Delaware River Basin
 Map of the Upper Delaware River Basin
The program has four components:

1. Program development and landscape prioritization
  • The Common Waters Partnership, in conjunction with state and federal agency partners and local stakeholders, selected the types of projects that will be eligible for funding and established the criteria for awarding funds to projects. A priority map was developed based on available source water protection models to target funds in areas that will have the greatest impact on source water protection. (To learn more about the source water protection model, click here.) Finally, basic program rules were established for contract lengths, payment structure, and other administrative considerations.
2. A Drinking Water Fund
  • In collaboration with water utilities and other entities in the Lower Delaware River Basin, a Fund has been established to finance the implementation of forest conservation and management practices in priority areas that will improve or maintain water quality. The fund will be supported by donations from water users and others who care about the Delaware River, as well as by grant funds.
3. Education and Outreach
  • Common Waters, in collaboration with partners, is developing materials to educate downstream water users about the importance of forests to the quantity and quality of their supply of drinking water and to encourage investment in the Fund. In addition, the Common Waters Partnership is using new and existing networks in the Upper Delaware River Basin to communicate the importance of forest management for water quality protection and to encourage forest owners' participation in the Fund. 
4. Program Evaluation and Expansion
  • Drawing on what it has learned in the early stages of the project, the Common Waters Partnership (within the Delaware Basin) and the Pinchot Institute (outside of the Delaware Basin) will seek to develop new partnerships to expand the reach of the program or launch new pilot programs.
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