Delaware River Watershed Innovative Financing Strategy

The Environmental Finance Center, through the support of the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, launched the Delaware River Watershed Innovative Financing Strategy Project.  The EFC and its project partners convened an expert environmental financing panel and identified innovative and scalable options for financing Delaware River watershed restoration and protection efforts.  The panel’s work resulted in a financing strategy that enabled the William Penn Foundation and its funding partners to allocate capital and funding in a way that is catalytic and ultimately successful in protecting water resources across the region.  The financing panel was charged with identifying innovative financing mechanisms in support of the Delaware River watershed restoration and protection efforts.  The panel focused on stressors to the watershed including: 

  • Urban stormwater and wet weather management;
  • Agricultural runoff; 
  • Headwaters protection and restoration; and, 
  • Aquifer and groundwater management. 

In addition to managing the panel process and providing intellectual resources (including research and content development), the EFC worked in partnership—including managing sub-awards and grants—with key conservation and research institutions including the University of Delaware, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the Pinchot Institute. The panel’s work culminated in a series of recommendations designed to guide and influence future grant making and investments on the part of the William Penn Foundation and its funding partners. 

The primary focus of this project and the work of the panel was to identify new and innovative ways of mobilizing capital and investment in watershed restoration and protection.  Institutions like the William Penn Foundation play a critical role in natural resource restoration and protection efforts through their support of new and successful programs, projects, and conservation initiatives.  However, succeeding in the ultimate goal of ensuring that the citizens of the Delaware River watershed have long-term access to safe and reliable water resources will require the Foundation’s investments to be catalytic in nature, thereby incentivizing further investments from within the public and private sectors.  In addition, although there are myriad organizations addressing a variety of financing and funding options and interventions across the region and the country, there is often very little coordination to these efforts with respect to the needs of particular resources and regions such as the Delaware River watershed.  

The complexity and scale of large-scale watershed restoration and protection efforts often appear to be insurmountable due to a lack of sufficient funding or innovative financing programs.  However, by putting the right incentives in place, the opportunity exists to achieve multiple restoration and financing goals, including: 

  • Reducing investment risk—both ecological and financial—of restoration investments; 
  • Expanding the scale of restoration investment activities; and, 
  • Developing sustainable market-based programs and ventures that will create business opportunities built on watershed restoration and protection. 

The goal of the Innovative Financing Panel was to identify where these opportunities exist and the steps and investments necessary to achieve financing and restoration success.  The panel comprised experts from a variety of disciplines and areas of expertise and represented multiple interests and institutions.  Though the panel addressed a variety of financing and funding options, the primary focus of its work was to identify opportunities to engage private capital and the private sector specifically.  To that end, the EFC’s priority with this project was to work in partnership with the foundation to leverage the collective skill and resources of innovative thinkers, practitioners, and financing experts through the convening of the Innovative Financing Panel.  At the end of the 18-month project, the panel, through the Environmental Finance Center and its partners, delivered to the William Penn Foundation the structure for a long-term watershed investment strategy.


UDEL     Partnership

TNC     Pinchot



Team Members

Program / Center Affiliation

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