In the headwaters of the Schuylkill River, the opening day of Trout Season is becoming a cherished family tradition. This is new for the region, since decades of low pH and heavy metals from Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) did not allow for either natural reproduction or trout-stocking. Through the efforts of organizations like the Schuylkill Headwaters Association, AMD is being effectively treated. As a result, the water quality of the Schuylkill River headwaters are rebounding and able to support trout.
After the headwaters, the Schuylkill River flows south through Berks County and faces additional challenges from agricultural runoff. Organizations such as the Schuylkill Action Network and community water providers are working directly with farmers to reduce the volume of nutrient and sediment contaminants in the watersheds. Best Management Practices (BMPs) such as manure storage units are helping to decrease close to 300,000 pounds of nitrogen-nitrate from the Maiden Creek Watershed, alone. As a result, nitrates in the groundwater are steadily declining, the community is taking notice.
As the Schuylkill River flows toward Philadelphia, more watershed restoration efforts are underway. Based on population density, federal regulations require communities to monitor and reduce contaminants from entering waterways from stormwater runoff. Known as the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Program, Pennsylvania has close to 1,000 MS4 communities. Many are located in the lower Schuylkill River Watershed. These regulated communities are working on long-term BMPs to improve the quality of stormwater discharge.
The AMD remediation, agriculture BMPs and MS4 stormwater controls are just a few of the restoration activities underway in the Schuylkill River Watershed. Some of the watershed restoration efforts are voluntary like Source Water Protection Program where community water suppliers are investing in protecting drinking water. Other cleanup activities are mandatory like the MS4 Program. Whatever the reason, investing in clean water is paying dividends. All you need is to watch the pure joy on the face of a seven year old catching his first trout in the headwaters of the Schuylkill River