Watershed Report Cards
With 25% of Delaware's land area consisting of wetland habitat and the continual loss of wetlands due to sea level rise and development, it is important to understand how healthy our remaining wetlands are. DNREC's Wetland Monitoring & Assessment Program goes out every summer and assesses wetlands by watershed across the state. These assessments provide valuable input for determining the best way to protect these areas so we can continue to reap the benefits that they provide. A letter grade is assigned to each watershed based on different environmental indicators or stressors, such as habitat, hydrology, and the surrounding buffer zone. The grades are broken down by wetland type in each watershed: flat wetlands, tidal wetlands, riverine wetlands, and depression wetlands. In the examples below, depressions did not represent enough of the areas and were not assigned a grade.
Use the map above to find out which watershed you live in.
St. Jones River Watershed: B-
Broadkill River Watershed: C+
Overview - This watershed is located in Kent County. More than 47% of the wetlands in this watershed have been lost since the state was first colonized. Most of the wetland loss is of flat wetlands from land use conversion and limited regulatory protection. Habitat fragmentation is a problem in the northwest portion of the watershed.
Grades - flats: B, tidal: C, riverine: C+
Stressors - invasive species, ditching to drain water, soil disturbance
Recommendations - strengthen buffer regulations to protect wetlands associated with development to allow wetlands to move landward with sea level rise
Overview - This watershed is located in Sussex County. Nearly half of this watershed's wetlands are comprised of tidal wetlands, which are areas flooded regularly by the tide. These wetlands can be critical in reducing flooding and storm damage for coastal areas. Most wetlands in this watershed were characterized as "moderately stressed".
Grades - flats: B, tidal: C, riverine: B-
Stressors - invasive species, ditching to drain water, disturbed buffers
Recommendations - strengthen buffer regulations to allow wetlands to migrate landward with sea level rise, control invasive species, protect flats and other non-tidal wetlands
Christina River Watershed: F
Protect Your Wetlands
Overview - This watershed is located in New Castle County and was assessed in coordination with Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. This watershed has the highest proportion of degraded wetlands in the state and the fewest undisturbed wetlands. Highway construction and adjacent development are large contributors to this low watershed grade.
Grades - flats: C, tidal: F, riverine: F
Stressors - invasive species, disturbed buffers (highway construction, other development), runoff, tree clearing, filling
Recommendations - build up marsh elevation to keep pace with sea level rise, control invasive species, encourage living shorelines, maintain natural buffers
About 80% of wetlands are located on private property. There are various incentive programs to help landowners restore and protect wetland areas, in addition to the Guidebook for Public Participation in Wetland Decision Making & Permitting.
YOU can also support wetland health by:
- Managing invasive species on your property and planting native plants - learn about what's in your garden using the new Delaware Wetlands Plant Field Guide
- Adding green infrastructure on your property to control erosion and runoff and improve water quality
- Protecting and maintaining buffers around your wetlands
- Preserving or restoring wetlands on your land
- Supporting better wetland protection by contacting your local decision-makers
Page reviewed 2/8/19