New Garden’s Watersheds

New Garden Township contains just over 16 square miles of land and lies within two larger watersheds. As described in the book by Ann Hagerty titled Once Upon a Time in New Garden Township  New Garden Township “was a picturesque land of forests with clear creeks running through, rock-topped hills and outcroppings, marshy valleys and wildlife in abundance all draining into two watersheds - the west and southwest portions draining into the White Clay Creek,and the eastern part draining into the Red Clay Creek. Most of the land is moderately sloping and somewhat rolling, but the southern part is steeper, with slopes breaking sharply into valleys. The highest point is north of Toughkenamon with an elevation of 483 feet above mean sea level; the low point of 180 feet above mean sea level is found where Broad Run leaves the Township in its southern boundary.”

When the weather rains, storms or snows the resulting stormwater drains into twenty two recongnizable streams which are the headwaters for the Township‘s two watersheds, the Red Clay watershed and the White Clay watershed. About a third of the township‘s land drains into the Red Clay creek bordering the eastern side via the Scarlet Run and Bucktoe Creek. On its western side the Trout Run, Egypt Run, Walnut Run and Broad Run drain the balance of New Garden‘s stormwater into the White Clay creek. After leaving the Township boundaries stormwater in the Red Clay and White Clay creeks eventually merge south in New Castle County, Delaware before draining into the Christina River. From there its stormwater passes by the mouth of the Brandywine creek just before its final destination into the Delaware River. Either through the Red Clay or White Clay watershed New Garden‘s stormwater meanders through more than 30 miles of streams and rivers before finally mixing its contents with the tidal waters of the Delaware Bay.

New Garden’s original economy of tillage and dairy is almost gone. Today its surface is comprised of a patchwork of small wood lots, streams, ponds and fields interspersed and separated by residential, industrial, agricultural and commercial development. (Place the mouse cursor over the above watershed map to see aerial photographs.) New Garden is home for more than 13,000 people and is covered with over 80 miles of paved road surface. Its mushroom businesses supplies a significant portion of the nation’s fresh mushrooms, it has a railroad, an integral FAA airport, several high technology enterprises and is a work place and recreation place for many non-residents.

When the English and Irish settled in New Garden in the early 1700s the streams were clean and when it rained stormwater didn't severely impact the streams. Most of the stormwater runoff probably contained sediments and sewage from agricultural sources and was captured in woods, wetlands and meadows before draining into nearby streams. As the population and economy grew more sediments and manmade pollutants drained into its streams. Indeed by the mid-20th century the Township's streams were stinky from sewage and for the most part unhealthy habitats for fish.

Since the passage of the Federal 1972 Clean Water Act the Township and its residents have significantly improved stream water quality. Sewer plants don't directly pipe treated effluent into the streams. Tillage agriculture is contoured thereby reducing sediment runoff. Residential and commercial development capture stormwater sediments. And residents are more aware of the water quality issues. Fish kills don't occur instead trout fishing has returned to a limited extent to some streams!

Today New Garden streams do become cloudy with excessive sediments from stormwater runoff originating from nearby or upstream sources. When the streams becomes clear and calm after a rain storm event its water quality may be appear clean. It isn't. The Department of Environmental Protection routinely inspects segments of New Garden streams for aquatic creatures sensitive to pollutants and sediments. If the population of particular aquatic invertebrate is below a certain level the stream is considered impaired. In 2010 nearly all the second order streams in New Garden are marked as impaired. So, there are more efforts than can be done to reduce sediments and pollutants from draining into the streams and creeks that flow through and out of the township’s two watersheds.