Stories From The Field

Assessing the Delaware River Basin Using Land Cover Information

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Water resources of the Delaware River are vital to the long-term health and economic stability of the region. These resources supply drinking water, support industry, transport products, provide habitat, and contribute to overall quality of life. Land cover and the alteration of the landscape for human use play a crucial role in water resource condition.


The Delaware River Basin Commission used Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) land cover data to assess current conditions and past trends throughout the Delaware River basin. C-CAP data were chosen for this analysis because the data are consistent and frequently updated. Changes in the landscape were analyzed, and managers set goals for the protection and improvement of resources, assessing issues and trends, and monitoring the success of implemented management strategies. The information was published in the State of the Delaware River Basin 2013 report, which is an update to the 2008 report.


Results show that in a recent five-year period, land was developed at an average rate of 19 football fields per day. Nearly 70 percent of conversion occurred to forests, resulting in a loss of more than 6,000 forested acres per year, the equivalent of 1 football field every 2 hours. When compared to population change, the development of land per capita was nearly twice the historical average. Wetlands and forests are crucial for water supply and quality, and knowledge of these types of changes to important landscapes is integral to improving resource management. The basin condition report communicates an understanding of the health of the basin, increases public involvement in Delaware River Basin and Estuary Program activities, and builds consensus on a broad array of actions to continue to improve water quality and availability and enhance the living resources of the Delaware River basin.


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