Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund: Catalyst Grants

Open Space Institute

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Grant amount: US $10,000 - US $35,000

Deadline: Rolling

Applicant type: Nonprofit

Funding uses: Project / Program

Location of project: Delaware, Counties in New Jersey: Atlantic County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County Show all

Location of residency: United States

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About this funder:



NOTE: Please contact staff to discuss projects prior to receiving a link to an online application.

Why Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund

Draining 13 million acres across four states, the Delaware River is the source of drinking water for 15 million people, a web of diverse plant and animal life, a recreational destination, and the foundation of the region’s economy.

The river has become much cleaner since the 1970s, after the federal Clean Water Act regulated major pollution sources, like sewage and factory waste. But today contamination still enters the watershed from thousands of smaller sources, carried into streams and groundwater by runoff from roads, construction sites, suburbs, cities, farms, and logged and mined lands (see white paper, Investing in Strategies to Accelerate Conservation and Measure Impact in the Delaware River Watershed).

Launched in 2014, the Delaware River Watershed Fund seeks to ensure abundant, clean water through support of land protection and improved land use planning, as part of the broader Delaware River Watershed Initiative, a coordinated effort involving 65 organizations working together to protect and restore clean water in the Delaware River watershed. The Initiative, generously supported by the William Penn Foundation and now entering a second phase, supports land protection, restoration and water quality monitoring in eight regions of the watershed. The William Penn Foundation has also commissioned an assessment of the contribution of capital investments in protection and restoration to ensure water quality.

Through the Fund, OSI provides three types of grants. Detailed on this page are: 

  • Catalyst Grants to integrate water quality science into open space and other regional plans to accelerate watershed protection by state, county and municipal governments. 

Catalyst Planning Grants Overview

The Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) aims to ensure that watersheds can provide high quality and sufficient water quantity for healthy ecosystems and human communities. As part of the DRWI, OSI awards catalyst grants ranging from $10,000 to $35,000 to eligible not-for-profit conservation and educational organizations to target and accelerate water resource protection by state, county and municipal governments through planning and zoning.

Successful applicants will work with local and regional government agencies to integrate water quality science into strategic planning such as Open Space Plans, ordinances or other mechanisms for protection. While the projects may have broader purposes, OSI funds should be used for the portion of a planning project that informs permanent protection of water resources. This work complements OSI’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund.

While public agencies are not eligible to apply for funding, OSI encourages proposals that include partnerships with public sector entities. Please note that projects do not need to be confined to the DRWI watershed clusters but can be located anywhere in the Delaware River Basin.

For a recent example, view the case study featuring Land Conservancy of New Jersey’s successful completion of a water resource protection strategy as part of Sussex County’s 2016 Open Space Plan with funding from the Catalyst Planning Fund.

Examples of Eligible Catalyst Projects

Eligible projects can include, but are not limited to the following examples:

  • Partner with a county on development of an Open Space Plan that informs spending for permanent protection of ground and/or surface water resources.
  • Integrate water resource consideration into build-out scenarios, ordinances, and/or land use regulations.
  • Work with a water utility to identify source water supply lands where protection could reduce risks of future filtration costs for end-users for a regional plan.
  • Quantify the cost savings of avoided degradation to justify regulatory support of permanent conservation or expenditure of public funds for land protection in the floodplain.
  • Develop a plan for forested stream buffer protection projects in partnership with State farm preservation programs.
  • Map and evaluate regulatory protection based on locations of town ordinances, funding levels and other proactive water quality planning.
  • Review town ordinances for water supply protection in karst areas and develop criteria for needed improvements in partnership with towns.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Not-for-profit conservation, land planning or educational organizations with a demonstrated track record of completing planning, applied research and/or outreach projects are eligible to apply
  • All projects must:
    • Be aimed at advancing permanent land protection for water resources,
    • Demonstrate breadth either through geographic extent or because the project could serve as a model for work elsewhere, and,
    • Complete the deliverables (report, analysis, etc.) within a year. The project should be designed so project impacts can be measured within three years. 


  • While public agencies are not eligible to apply for funding, OSI welcomes proposals that include partnerships with public sector entities.
  • The following are not eligible for this grant program:
    • Local projects that do not have application to broader geographies within the Delaware River Basin or beyond;
    • General operating support;
    • Research that is not directly applied to a plan;
    • Land acquisition or loans; and
    • Political lobbying