Schuylkill Action Network: An Innovative Approach to Partnership The Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) is an initiative that serves as a national model for watershed restoration and protection. More than 2 million people get their drinking water from the river and streams in the Schuylkill watershed, making protecting the watershed a very important goal for water suppliers.

This effort brings major stakeholders in the watershed together to share information and resources, prioritize watershed needs, and implement best management practices that improve the Schuylkill River.

Read about how Conservation Districts are Assisting the Schuylkill Action Network

Over a decade ago, the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) embarked on a very ambitious effort to indentify and prioritize all of the potential pollution threats to the Schuylkill River, which provides about half of the city’s drinking water. This process led to the creation of a protection plan for the river, laying out a road map for addressing these threats.

One of the primary goals of this plan was to create a mechanism for regional coordination across geographic, regulatory, and jurisdictional boundaries. The Schuylkill Action Network (SAN) was created shortly thereafter to help accomplish this goal. Both the SAN and the PWD take a watershed-wide approach to protecting drinking water sources by partnering with upstream communities, other regional water suppliers, businesses, governments, and watershed protection groups. 

The river’s headwaters start in Schuylkill County, and flow 130 miles to empty into the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The watershed itself encompasses 2,000 square miles in 11 counties in eastern Pennsylvania, encompassing 27 subwatersheds in 235 municipalities. Approximately 35% of the 2,700 miles of river and tributaries have been designated as pollution-impaired.

Over the past 10 years, a new approach to watershed management has emerged — one that focuses on collaboration. Through the vast network of SAN partners, hundreds of projects have been completed and more than $400 million invested to protect and restore this important resource.

The PWD’s initial Schuylkill River Protection Plan has been complemented by additional planning and protection efforts and involvement of other Schuylkill water suppliers. Over the last 10 years, nearly every public drinking water supplier that gets their water from Schuylkill reservoirs, rivers, or steams, has developed an approved source water protection plan.

Through this shared effort, watershed  priorities can be more effectively evaluated and priorities addressed — continuing the positive change in protecting Schuylkill waters.

In May 2013, SAN celebrated 10 years of collaboration with its 150 partner organizations, including citizens, watershed associations, non-profit organizations, government agencies, private businesses, and community water systems.

SAN has developed six workgroups, each with a specific focus:

  • Abandoned mine drainage
  • Agricultural activities
  • Stormwater runoff
  • Pathogens
  • Education and outreach needs
  • Land protection activities

A Planning Committee and executives from the Partnership of the Delaware Estuary, the Environmental Protection Agency, the PA Department of Environmental Protection, and the Delaware River Basin Commission provide guidance and support to the workgroups.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council recently presented SAN with a 2013 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, which highlights the best in environmental innovation and expertise throughout the Commonwealth. SAN’s unique approach to source water protection highlights the Schuylkill River’s important role in drinking water supply, a critical resource for recreation, and the economy of watershed communities.

For more information on the Schuylkill Action Network and its projects, visit

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