Working Together: WATAR

Watershed Approach to Toxics Assessment and Restoration

The focus of the Watershed Approach to Toxics Assessment and Restoration (WATAR) is to remove toxins from the environment in order to return Delaware's waters to a fishable, swimmable, and potable condition. This is achieved through:
  • Examining surface waters, sediments, and fish and other aquatic life that are impacted by toxics
  • Informing fish and shellfish consumers of the risk
  • Linking to the sources responsible for those impacts
WATAR was formed to increase collaborative efforts among divisions within DNREC. Combining each division's strengths fosters the creation of a more holistic viewpoint and an increased ability to problem-solve. The partnerships developed through this initiative leverage resources and funding to accelerate the cleaning and restoration of contaminated sites and impacted watersheds, while monitoring to assess long-term improvement. Watch What is WATAR? for more information.
WATAR creates the linkage between cleaning up a contaminated site and improvement in watershed health. Because of Delaware's industrial past, persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic substances have accumulated in the water, soils, and organisms that inhabit these environments over time. Long term exposure to these chemicals increases health risks to humans, aquatic life, fish-eating birds, and other wildlife. However, it is not only a priority to address toxics at contaminated sites and in Delaware's watersheds, but to also foster restoration of the natural flora and fauna that were once there.
WATAR uses the selection criteria below in order prioritize project locations and to properly allocate personnel and equipment necessary for project completion. The map below shows the study locations from the first six years of work. Data is under review from 2017 water quality investigations for watersheds draining into the Chesapeake Bay and its major tributaries. Future studies will expand to new watersheds, as well as revisit previous sites to assess water quality progress.
Site Selection Variables
The following are taken into consideration when choosing a project location:
  • Listed within an impaired watershed under the Clean Water Act, Section 303(d)
  • Provides coverage of entire watershed
  • Previous data available for comparison/trend assessment
  • Fills a data gap
  • Proximity to a former or current waste site
  • Co-located with USGS gage
  • Potential fishing spot
  • Upstream of drinking water intake
  • Close to state line (interstate waters)
  • Accessibility
  • Safety

Are we speaking a different language? Try the WATAR Quality Glossary.

Page reviewed 5/14/19