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December 08, 2016
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A vision for our watershed

Our readers may recall a news story published this summer that illustrates what competition for a natural asset looks like, as opposed to collaboration. Thomas Murphy, a representative of New York City’s office that oversees the release of water into the Delaware from that city’s drinking water reservoirs, riled the waters at a meeting of the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) when he referred to his city’s reservoir water as “our” water. One representative of the UDC rejoined, “No, this is our water.”

But really, it is not our water either, because the river belongs to everyone, from its source in nearby Delaware County, NY to its terminus in Delaware Bay. The Delaware River is part of “the commons,” i.e. resources that belong to or affect the whole of a community, or in this case affect many hundreds of downstream communities and many thousands of individual users.

In the decades ahead it is inevitable that there will be increasing competing demands for and pressures on the waters of the Delaware River watershed, but addressing competing demands must be done through collaboration, and that collaboration needs to start by creating a vision for the future of the river and its watershed.