Seventy-five years ago, the Delaware River was choked with sewage and industrial pollution. People were sickened by the smell. Parts of the river were dead zones, unable to support fish and other aquatic life. The river was slated to be carved up by dams for flood control and water supply, and the natural character of the Delaware was in danger of being lost forever.
Today, the Delaware River is on the mend and thriving. Through federal safeguards, state action and local initiative, the quality of waters in the Delaware have dramatically improved, fish and wildlife have returned in tremendous numbers, and the mainstem of the Delaware remains the longest free-flowing river in the eastern United States, with the most extensive National Wild and Scenic River protection of any watershed in the country. Today, communities along the Delaware River are setting a national example of river stewardship.
But, important work remains to be done. Continued action is critical to address ongoing challenges, such as aging water infrastructure, urban development and climate change. Severe storms, which occur with increasing frequency due to climate change, threaten drinking water intakes with saltwater intrusion and can cause sewage overflows at ill-prepared water treatment plants.