The Schuylkill River is the largest tributary of the Delaware Watershed, supplying drinking water to over 1.75 million people. From 1950 to 2000, the Schuylkill Watershed's metropolitan areas consumed land at a rate far exceeding population growth. The conservation of greenfields into low density housing, shopping centers, and office parks has put valuable productive landscapes and ecosystem services at risk.
Schuylkill Green identifies problems that inform recommendations made to enhance the quality and increase the quantity of ecological infrastructure throughout the Schuylkill Watershed. Contemporary settlement patterns are degrading and eliminating the natural resources of the Schuylkill Watershed. Furthermore, the region has a fragmented government structure with 232 municipalities, each with their own local land use controls and perspectives on development. These problems could affect the ability of the region to respond effectively to changing local and global environmental conditions, such as climate destabilization and rising energy prices.
State of the Watershed
The Schuylkill Watershed has a gradient of conditions ranging from rural to urban landscapes. The northern portion of the watershed has significant land that remains untouched but is threatened by decades of suburbanization. The eastern portion of the watershed has highly fragmented natural landscapes due to population density and settlement patterns. Schuylkill Green identifies this gradient as a method to understand and scale investments in enhancing and protecting the ecosystem service throughout the watershed.
Envisioning the Future
Principles laid the foundation for Schuylkill Green's vision of vibrant, green, and connected communities throughout the Schuylkill Watershed. Principles included preserving a diversity of systems, creating a connected network, and shaping a sense of place.
Schuylkill Green's vision: A resilient watershed where investment in ecological infrastructure results in long term improvements in health, equity, economic security, and social vibrancy.
Modeling the Watershed
Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), priority conservation and restoration models were created to inform the expenditure of limited resources for ecological and green infrastructure investments. These models are critical for identifying landscapes most important for enhancing ecosystem services in the watershed and protecting the quality and supply of drinking water.
Schuylkill Green establishes a regional watershed commission with the mission of protecting the health, equity, economic security and social vibrancy of the Schuylkill Watershed through coordination, regulation, education, and funding of ecological infrastructure investments. Operation under the umbrella of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the commission will coordinate the efforts of local governments, establish a Register of Natural Capital, create and enforce standards to protect the region's natural resources, incentivize emerging clean energy markets, and provide education