From the Directors Notebook: A Watershed Moment with Lasting Impact

Conservation // October 10, 2018

By Maura McCarthy, FOW’s Executive Director

You have an important role to play in protecting the Wissahickon Creek. I hope you will consider joining FOW and our upstream partners at the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) for a panel discussion to share progress on the Wissahickon Clean Water Partnership. Regional and local stakeholders will discuss the watershed-wide research and planning that will result in a new holistic approach to improving water quality on October 24th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Cherokee Campus. You can find out more about this event and register here. 

The 64-square mile Wissahickon Watershed encompasses 12 municipalities, from the headwaters in Montgomeryville to the confluence with the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. The beloved Wissahickon Creek is the centerpiece of this urban/suburban watershed. Besides its beauty and popularity for recreation, it contributes to the drinking water of 350,000 Philadelphians and is a habitat for local wildlife. Over 130 species of birds can be found in the watershed, as well as 15 mammal species and over 500 species of native plants.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a report in 2015 demonstrating the importance of small streams and wetlands to downstream water quality, concluding as a scientific fact that what happens upstream affects what happens downstream. Decades-long challenges facing the health of the creek and its tributaries throughout both the upper (Montgomery County) and lower (Philadelphia County) portions of the watershed are getting worse: Development, stormwater runoff, pollution (including trash), changing climate, flooding damage, and threats to habitat.

If we want the health of the Wissahickon Creek to improve, it is incumbent upon those who love this special place to take care of it. The municipalities of the Wissahickon Watershed joined together to form a coalition of towns and sewer authorities working with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to address our impaired stream health. This coalition, called the Wissahickon Clean Water Partnership (WCWP), is working on a plan to collaboratively “Own the Solution” for a cleaner Wissahickon Creek at a local level.

We know the Wissahickon as a place of extraordinary natural beauty that supports a thriving ecosystem, but we should always remember that it requires care. The watershed, although better than it was decades ago, still has a long way to go to get where it needs to be in terms of quality. It is only with concerted efforts, like WCWP, and the support of the community that we have any hope of making profound changes in our shared watershed.