Delaware is the second smallest state in the United States, but holds a wealth of water resources. The state lies on a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware River estuary, with 25 miles of ocean coastline, and 840 square miles of bay. Inland freshwater resources are substantial as well; the freshwater resources of Delaware include 4,500 miles of rivers and streams, 500 square miles of wetlands, and 2,900 acres of lakes and ponds, all contained within a land mass of just 1,981 square miles. Improving quality and quantity of water resources is of high priority to Delaware’s varied stakeholders, not simply for health and aesthetic reasons, but also for reasons of economic well-being. According to Dr. Jerry Kauffman, Director at the University of Delaware Water Resources Center (DWRC), “Delaware’s freshwater and saltwater resources are a substantial economic engine that contributes $7 billion to the regional economy, and supports 70,000 jobs with over $2 billion in wages.”
Dr. Kauffman, a part of the Delaware water resources community since 1993, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Rutgers University in 1981. Jerry began his professional career with the New Jersey Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection, garnering the attention of Tom Kean, then 48th Governor of New Jersey, with his practical diagnosis and solution to a costly highway storm runoff problem. Governor Kean sponsored Kauffman and other outstanding New Jersey young professionals to attend the Certified Public Manager Program offered by Rutgers and Princeton Universities. Through his practical experience and his CPMP studies, says Kauffman, “I realized that to really solve problems, you need to have the policy and finance. Solutions need funding, first and foremost.“ In 1993 he was employed by the Water Resources Agency for New Castle County in Newark, Delaware, and earned his MPA and Ph.D. degrees at University of Delaware in Watershed Policy and Marine Policy, respectively. Kauffman has been Project Director for the Water Resources Agency (WRA) in the U.D. Institute for Public Administration since 1997, and Director of the DWRC since 2015.
Kauffman’s work with the WRA and DWRC keeps him at the forefront of Delaware water resource issues. Though there are many, two of the most critical problems include: 1) quality and quantity of water supply and 2) vulnerability to coastal flooding. Jerry describes the quality and quantity problems in both the northern and southern parts of the state. “In the north, you have 75% of the population, almost 700,000 thousand people, living and commuting to the cities along that Interstate 95 corridor. Most of the drinking water is supplied by four streams coming out of Pennsylvania, such as the Brandywine Creek watershed.” Because these streams are coming out of areas of Pennsylvania with considerable dairy and mushroom production, the quality of water is impacted by typical agricultural run-off issues. Additionally, the presence of large corporations such as QVC and Boeing Rotocraft Systems just outside of Philadelphia affect both water supply and quality downstream in Delaware. The southern county of Sussex also faces significant water quality issues due to its vast chicken farming industry (the largest in any U.S. county); dealing with manure is a constant challenge in its sandy soils.
Kauffman outlines a second, critical water resources issue particular to his state and other east coast regions. “Delaware is the lowest lying state in the union, only 60 ft. above sea level. That leaves it very vulnerable to coastal flooding, and we are seeing increasing intensity of storms, even outside of hurricane season.” In response to this concern, the DWRC recently completed a flood vulnerability study for the Delaware Department of Transportation, providing analysis and recommendations for increasing the resilience of the 10% of Delaware roads lying on the flood plain. On October 30, the fifth year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the DWRC will hold a flood seminar at the University of Delaware’s beach campus to discuss vulnerabilities to flooding in the state and how they can be addressed.
Because of the size of Delaware, the water center is often involved with problem solving at the state, rather than county, level, helpful in streamlining the process. The state is made up of just three counties, and there is a small town feel among those involved in governing, managing, and researching its natural resources. Kauffman laughs, “There are only two degrees of separation between you and anyone else in the state!”
University of Delaware Water Resources Center
The Delaware Water Resources Center has been successfully contributing to state and wider water resource conversations in a number of ways. Dr. Kauffman observes, “Several of our economic studies have helped build understanding that lack of financing is usually the barrier to fixing problems.” Due to the academic status of the DWRC, it can often put forth suggestions without political charge. Notes Jerry, “For example, we have the academic freedom to say, ‘we need a 5% gasoline tax to fund improvement of roads vulnerable to flood damage,’ in a non-political way.” As recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of effective water resource management and research grows, the DWRC has been able to nurture cross-disciplinary water connections across the campus, even in programs such as nursing and introductory English courses. The annual DWRC Undergraduate Internship Program offers students and faculty opportunities for practical research and field work on water resource topics relevant to the Mid-Atlantic region. A look at DWRC research topics shows the breadth of disciplines engaged: Governance, Policy and Economics of Intergovernmental River Basin Management; Impact of Global Warming on Delaware’s Water Resources; The Role of Impervious Cover as a Watershed-based Zoning Tool; and the U.D. WATER (Watershed Action Team for Ecological Restoration) Project, are only a few of many topics (see http://www.wrc.udel.edu/research/ for more details).
Additionally, the DWRC is successfully developing international water resource collaborations. Water resource students from China and South Korea find the water center at University of Delaware helpful to their studies, as lessons learned from Delaware River Basin management practices transfer well to similar scale basin regions overseas. The DWRC also sends Ph.D. candidates overseas to work in a restoration program with the New Zealand Waitaki River Authority. The scale of the small country and the small state are comparable, and efforts to clean up and create an optimal water resource environment are well funded and provide a rich learning environment.
Dr. Kauffman, and other faculty and staff of the Delaware Water Resource Center, welcome opportunities to connect with others in water resources fields. The University of Delaware recently rejoined the UCOWR community after a several year break. Jerry comments, “Collaborations and partnerships between universities and water centers across the United States are something we absolutely want to be part of, and we look forward to renewed connections with the UCOWR membership!”