The Schuylkill River became the first scenic river designated in Pennsylvania and one-quarter of the watershed is designated as high quality or exceptional waters. The river and its tributaries have long been recognized for the important roles they play as a fish habitat and source of drinking water. As the largest tributary to the Delaware River, the Schuylkill River is a major contributor to the Delaware Estuary.
The Schuylkill River serves as a natural border between the City of Philadelphia and Lower Merion Township and flows through Fairmount Park, originally established to preserve the water quality in the Schuylkill for Philadelphia’s drinking water supply. Today, many visitors to Philadelphia enjoy the spectacular view of boathouse row, the Fairmount Water Works, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art along the banks of the Schuylkill River. The area of the watershed within Philadelphia is extremely urbanized and includes a diverse mix of neighborhoods, a Center City business district, numerous educational institutions and industrial uses.
drains approximately 2,000 square miles
approximately 130 linear miles
approximately 1.5 million residents
approximately 10% impervious
Counties / Municipalities
Encompasses areas of 11 counties, including Schuylkill, Berks, Montgomery, Chester, Philadelphia, Carbon, Lehigh, Lebanon, Lancaster, Bucks, and Delaware
Within the Schuylkill Watershed exists a myriad of spirited residents, community groups, businesses, and institutions that advocate partnership opportunities to protect and enhance watershed and waterway resources. Learn more about these stewards, their initiatives, and how you can make a difference in the Schuylkill Watershed.
Source water protection and the development of water and stormwater infrastructure helped shape the character of our watersheds. Understanding this history is fundamental to stormwater management strategies and other site development regulations we implement today.
The Philadelphia Water Department takes a multi-faceted approach to protecting the Schuylkill River watershed and its valuable water resources from the challenges posed by urbanization, and other regional and influences.
- Beginning in 2010, PWD will develop an Integrated Watershed Management Plan to guide restoration and preservation within the city portion of the Schuylkill River Watershed.
- As a key partner, PWD supports the Schuylkill Action Network by providing technical assistance.
- PWD also participates in the Coalition for Philadelphia’s Riverfronts to support a high quality, continuous, connected riverfront greenway along the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers. This greenway will contain a multi-use trail and vegetated green space to manage stormwater, protect the rivers from pollution, and attract wildlife back to the riverbanks.
- The PWD Model Neighborhoods Initiative includes many neighborhoods in the Schuylkill River Watershed, including Manayunk, East Falls, Grays Ferry, Point Breeze, and Allegheny West.
Our watershed partners provide a wide array of opportunities to learn and get involved:
- Discover the history and current human and ecological uses of the Schuylkill River at the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center.
- Take a river cruise, find upcoming events, or explore other recreational activities available in Philadelphia along the Schuylkill Banks.
- Check the status of Schuylkill River water quality and whether conditions are safe for recreation activities by visiting the Philly RiverCast website at www.phillyrivercast.org. RiverCast is the first operable web-based recreational warning system in the United States, and uses real-time flow, precipitation, and turbidity data to predict bacteria levels (and suggested guidelines for recreation) within a section of the Schuylkill River heavily used by the public for swimming, rowing, and boating.
- Learn about the connection between dog waste and source water pollution through the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary’s (PDE) Dog Waste Control Program and PWD’s Bags on Board program. For more information on the Dog Waste Control Program, visit PDE’s website at http://www.delawareestuary.org/acivities_community_dog_waste.asp. Information for the Bags on Board program can be found right here, on our website!
- Find information on community events, recreational trails, planning initiatives, kayak tours, and destinations along the Schuylkill River in East Falls, Manayunk, and Lower Merion visit http://www.destinationschuylkillriver.org.
- Stroll to the shore of the Tidal Schuylkill River at Bartram's Garden, America’s oldest living botanic garden.
- Plan your visit to the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area with its numerous historic, recreational, and cultural attractions at http://www.schuylkillriver.org.
- Visit Fairmount Park, it was originally established to preserve the water quality of Philadelphia’s drinking water supply, the Schuylkill River. The Fairmount Park system consists of 9,200 acres of open space, trees, and natural and cultural resources for city residents and visitors to enjoy, go to http://www.fairmountpark.org