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Water Snapshot

The Delaware River Basin Water Snapshot Program was born on September 6, 1995, at a meeting hosted by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and attended by representatives from the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), and the state of Delaware. The purpose of the meeting was to get as many volunteers involved as possible in monitoring basin waterways. At some point this question was raised: "Why not have every monitoring program in the basin, volunteer or not, collect data during the same time period? Bracket it around Earth Day as a demonstration of the massive commitment to clean water. It will be a snapshot of the health of the basin's waters."

The first Delaware River Basin Water Snapshot took place in late-April 1996. Led by the DRBC over the next 11 years, this annual water quality sampling event that took a "snapshot" of the health of the basin's waters served as an educational, outreach activity around Earth Day, April 22, bringing attention to the need for water quality monitoring and providing much-deserved recognition to those volunteers who participate in monitoring programs throughout the year. Whether participants conducted a visual assessment, used a simple monitoring kit or sophisticated instruments, the hope was thatSnapshot would create a heightened awareness about local watersheds, the crucial role our watersheds play in all of our lives, and the need for stewardship. The data were compiled without regard to the precision of the analytical method or the expertise of the analyst. Snapshot results are not intended to reflect exact science, but rather show the public's commitment to learn more about the quality of the basin's waters.

Over the years, the program benefitted from the input of representatives from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Delaware Estuary Program, Delaware Nature Society, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, National Park Service, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Pa. DEP), Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Pocono Environmental Education Center, Upper Delaware Council, U.S. EPA, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Pa. DEP liked Water Snapshot so much that it developed its own statewide program in 1998, which continued for ten years.

Unfortunately, the DRBC suspended the Delaware River Basin Water Snapshot program in 2007. This decision was largely due to ongoing budget pressures that did not allow the commission to purchase water monitoring kits for distribution to participants and other workload demands on staff that impacted efforts to market the program to prospective participants. This was reflected in the steady, downward trend in level of participation over the last several years prior to 2007.

Even though commission staff will no longer be collecting and compiling the data sheets, improving our sense of individual and collective stewardship through education remains an important goal. DRBC is making available the Water Snapshot data entry form (pdf 42 KB) for use by teachers, scout leaders, or any other interested persons who may wish to use it for instructional purposes. And please don't forget the many local watershed groups that are actively involved in monitoring, educational, and other important stewardship projects throughout the entire year, not just around Earth Day. They are always looking for new members.

In the past, we have posted photos and other special submissions by Snapshot participants on the commission's web site. Especially noteworthy are the Upper Delaware Snapshot reports (including photos, artwork, and writings of students) prepared with the valuable assistance of staff from the National Park Service-Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. Here are the words written by Water Snapshot 2002 participant Max Roche, who then was a sixth grader attending Wayne-Highlands School District's Damascus Elementary School in Pennsylvania:

"Our River"
by Max Roche

As one of our main water sources, protecting the river is an important environmental role along the mighty Delaware. It can be said that the Delaware is our river of life. Being a good steward is an important part of society. If we're to live the way we do now, and better, we must protect the river and the important resources that it bears. Having a location at the beginning of the mighty river, my community is an important influence on the other 250 miles south of my community. Stewardship is important not only here, but in every river community. As a student in Water Snapshot, I have been led to believe that as a good steward you need two things: patience and passion. It takes the time and energy of a day's work to do this job. You must also want to take the time to do this. You can help our river and its basin by cleaning near, in, and around the Delaware watershed, and by trying not to pollute the air and water. This includes substances like smoke and oil. These are only a few of many ideas that I have. In conclusion I feel that if everyone would take five minutes of their time to help this ecosystem, then we could all live better without as many sacrifices as people thought.

We continue to invite you to share photos and special submissions like these with us for posting on the DRBC's "Ed. Web" educational web site.

Again, we thank you for your past support of the Delaware River Basin Water Snapshot program and hope you will continue to be actively committed to education and stewardship activities throughout the watershed.

DRBC Water Snapshot Information
National Park Service Upper Delaware Water Snapshot Reports