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Water Year

delaware river watershed initiative

Water scarcity and access to clean drinking water are life-and-death issues for countries all over the world. Climate change and other factors are driving these conditions closer to home no matter where you live. Human activities such as urbanization, agriculture and emissions that affect climate change are overwhelming many of the natural processes that control the availability and quality of freshwater. It is more important than ever to keep in mind the short- and long-term health of our aquatic systems and the plants and animals living within them as we interact with our natural world in our everyday lives. 

In response, students, faculty and professional staff from across from Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences are coming together to make 2022 our Water Year. Water Year will provide a fresh perspective on the water systems that bind us together and inspire us to work collaboratively to ensure clean and healthy water for natural systems and human communities.

Water Year is focused on three key goals:

  • Engaging the community through public-facing water and sustainability programming
  • Making a measurable impact on our local watershed through science, engagement and stewardship
  • Driving collective action to protect our watershed through our public programming and community-based research

scientists on boat

Through programming, exhibits, films and other opportunities, we will examine water within the context of climate change and provide the opportunity to learn and do something about the unequal burdens of climate change on vulnerable communities, habitat and species loss; the public health impacts of a warming climate; and the economic risks of inaction. We will explore the ecology of the local watershed; how your actions may affect your watershed; how to understand the health of a watershed; how watershed health plays a role in the quality of the water we drink; Philadelphia’s leading-edge approaches to green infrastructure; and much more. 

The Academy of Natural Sciences has led critical water research and environmental outreach for over 70 years and today is a leading scientific organization on a regional project to protect 14,000 square miles of drinking water for 15 million people. The Academy’s Patrick Center for Environmental Research consists of a multidisciplinary group of environmental scientists and engineers focused on understanding aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and applying this knowledge to assess ecosystem health and develop watershed-level strategies for enhancing environmental quality. The Patrick Center also works with diverse stakeholders, including government, community groups, industry, and environmental organizations to improve environmental stewardship. Through Water Year and beyond, we will continue to investigate the complex human and natural systems connected to water quality and quantity and to seek potential solutions for our threatened water resources.

Academy Exhibits and Programming


extreme deep - black submarine diving into blue ocean with turquoise light

Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss

Explore the mysteries of the deep sea, encounter recently discovered creatures and experience the technology that allows scientists to travel to the bottom of the ocean in Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss. See bubbling thermal vents, compact research submersibles and shipwrecks including Titanic in this adventure. Learn about the geological forces deep within the earth and how superheated water erupting from deep vents supports life. Fly a remotely operated vehicle over a model of the Titanic’s deck, manipulate the robotic arm of a deep-ocean submersible and arrange an underwater ecosystem. The sun doesn’t penetrate the water at these depths, yet seafloor inhabitants thrive in total darkness thanks to a unique life support system. Extreme Deep reveals the secrets of the ocean and enriches our understanding of and connection to it. 

The River Feeds Back, A sound installation by Annea Lockwood and Liz Phillips

The River Feeds Back

The Lenni Lenape call the Schuylkill River the Ganshowahanna, or roaring waters, for its noisy course over rocks and stones, and the Wissahickon Creek the Wisameckhan, or cat-fish stream. In The River Feeds Back, you can traverse these aquatic environments through an immersive sound installation created by artists Annea Lockwood and Liz Phillips.

Recorded at sites along the 135 miles of the Schuylkill River from its headwaters to its mouth, this layered sound map offers glimpses of the river system above and below the water’s surface through a variety of listening portals made of wood, slate and clay pottery. Experience swirling currents, water slipping and rushing over rocks, the underwater lives of aquatic insects and fish, trumpeting geese crashing into water, chirping birds, cheeping frogs, and the long, slow sweeps of toad calls. The River Feeds Back attunes us to the life-giving waterways of the Schuylkill, vital sources of water for Philadelphia.


Academy Science Camp
June 27–September 2

Spend your summer at the Academy with our fun educators, cool exhibits and wild science! Each day will feature hands-on activities, creative crafts and untold secrets of the museum. Each week features a different theme; Water Year themes include Aquatic Adventures and Ocean Commotion. Click here to learn more about Academy Science Camp. 

Small Actions Spark Big Changes

child and parent use faucet

Explore our Small Actions Spark Big Changes page for tips and resources related to new sustainability topics each month. Topics include Building Backyard Animal Habitats, Reducing Plastic Use, Composting, Talking About Climate Change and more. 

In 2022, the Academy of Natural Sciences and Drexel University are celebrating Water Year to dramatically increase consumer awareness and responsible behaviors around water in every person who we can reach. Click here to explore tips and resources related to reducing your water usage.

Explore Stories from the Academy Blog 

Renewed call to protect Philly’s waterways - Roland Wall, Director of the Academy’s Patrick Center for Environmental Research argues for more protection of Philly's waterways.

Where Does Your Drinking Water Come From? - Get to know our local watershed.

Stefanie Kroll: Tales of a Watershed Scientist - Learn more about the work of watershed scientist Stefanie Kroll.

Barnegat Salt Marshes Treat Water - Studies show Barnegat Bay salt marshes provide millions of dollars of water treatment for free – for now.

Mussels Improve Water Quality - Learn how freshwater mussels improve water quality.