Watersheds are sneaky: They are everywhere, yet they hide in plain sight and most people don't know that they're there. But watersheds are important because they are the sources of our water.

But now, if you live in the New York counties of Broome, Delaware or Sullivan, you'll know where your water source is because the New York State Department of Transportation is planting 14 signs that tell you that you're "Entering the Delaware River Watershed."

The signage program was announced May 5, 2020, at a joint teleconference by Congressman Antonio Delgado (NY-19); Senator Jennifer Metzger (NY-42) and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (NY-100).

"During these tough times, this is a bright spot," said Delgado, praising the collaborative efforts that made the signage possible. "The Delaware is the lifeblood of these communities."

Metzger noted: "What one community does affects their neighbors. Knowing that you're in this watershed is a vital first step in protecting our water."

Delaware River Watershed
Click to enlarge.

The Delaware River flows for 330 miles from Hancock, N.Y., to the Atlantic Ocean. But its watershed reaches for thousands of square miles in four states, scooping up rainfall and snowmelt to pour into thousands of named and unnamed rivulets and streams that flow into the rivers we all know, like the Musconetcong in New Jersey, the Lehigh and Schuykill rivers in Pennsylvania, and the New York City reservoirs that trap and release the headwaters of the east and west branches of the Delaware.

Water naturally flows downhill, but a watershed isn't created by the water, but by the contours of the land. Its outline doesn't change. Of course the action of water -- erosion, for example -- can change those contours but that usually takes a long time.

The Delaware River watershed sits between the Hudson River watershed and the watershed of the country's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, thanks to the southern flow of the Susquehanna River through New York and Pennsylvania.

"Water basin boundaries do not typically show up on road maps or navigation systems," said Steve Tambini, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission. "These new roadway signs will connect residents and visitors to their location in the Delaware River Watershed as they travel through New York."

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, one of the organizers for the New York signage, is working with agencies and organizations in the other three states to bring watershed signage there, too, according to Kelly Knutson, the coalition's state policy manager.

Sandra Meola, the coalition's executive director, said the signs foster a sense of place and a "deeper connection to others living within our four-state watershed."

As you can imagine, for a complicated project, there were lots of partners, but Jeff Skelding, executive director of the Friends of the Upper Delaware, said he was surprised by how quickly the project came together.

"It was only about a year ago we had the first meeting up in the offices of the Upper Delaware Council with its executive director, Laurie Ramie, and that got us off to a great start," he said.

"This river brings joy to so many people and is an economic engine for all the river communities," said Gunther.

By the way, there are no new regulations coming your way with this signage. It's just a way for residents to see where their water supply comes from.

Here's a video that explains more about a watershed: https://youtu.be/QOrVotzBNto

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About Meg McGuire

Meg McGuire has been a journalist for 30 years in New York and Connecticut. She started in weekly newspapers and moved to full-time work in dailies 25 years ago. She knows about the tectonic changes in journalism firsthand, having been part of what was euphemistically called a "reduction in force" six years ago. Now she's working to find new ways to "do" the news as an independent online publisher of news about the Delaware River, its watershed and its people.

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