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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


invisible world of water on blue wall with diatoms and snowflakes

Invisible World of Water (open now)

The first project in the Academy of Natural Sciences’ yearlong focus on water renews our appreciation for the vital element of water through artworks that combine the marvel and insight of both scientific and artistic inquiry.

Centered around two micro-phenomena — snow crystals and diatoms — the exhibition will present parallel histories of observation and show the interplay between the micro-cosmic and macro-cosmic. Diatoms — microalgae — the wondrous jewels of water encased in glass, exist in virtually every body of water, lie at the heart of the food chain and generate a major portion of the world’s oxygen. They are often compared to snow crystals. 

Extreme Deep (opening April 2, 2022)

Extreme Deep depicts the mysteries of the ocean's greatest depths. Newly discovered life forms, thermal vents, close-up views of deep-sea research submersibles, and shipwrecks, including the Titanic, are among the attractions in this deep-sea adventure. Visitors will observe firsthand the technology that has allowed people to travel to the ocean floor. 


Junior Scientist Workshop - What's So Might About a Diatom?
Saturday, January 22

The plants and animals you see by a stream might tell you a story about the ecosystem, but do the organisms you can’t see paint an even bigger picture? Microscopic, single-celled diatoms are the information powerhouses of our waterways. Get a rare glimpse of the Academy’s incredible Diatom Collection and find out how we pioneered water research across the planet. Discover how diatoms have inspired scientists to invent special tools, and create beautiful art and take home your own daring diatom design. Learn why the Academy’s Diatom Collection has the biggest impact on the world even though it has some of the tiniest specimens. Click here to learn more about Junior Scientist Workshops and to register.

Junior Scientist Workshop - Have You Been Living Under a Rock?
Saturday, March 19

Bugs might bug us, but aren’t they part of a healthy ecosystem? The answer can be found in the water, floating on the surface or hanging out under the rocks! Learn about the invertebrates and plants that indicate if a stream is healthy and how their unique adaptations give them a chance to survive in their watery habitats. Discover the ways in which these living things are connected and how everything in nature connects back to us. Make a splash with some hands-on water activities. Practice taking a look at the smallest species for the biggest clues, and explore real solutions to keep our waterways clean and safe. Click here to learn more about Junior Scientist Workshops and to register.

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 Animals 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.