Keeping water clean, safe and healthy is the heart of our mission. We work to protect and restore our water and natural environment in central New Jersey through conservation, advocacy, science and education.
Our staff includes policy advocates, scientists, land and water stewards, naturalists and educators. We speak out for water and the environment, protect and restore sensitive habitats, test our waterways for pollution, and inspire others to care for the natural world. We focus much of our work in the Stony Brook-Millstone and the adjacent part of the Central Delaware River Watersheds, while also leading several statewide initiatives.
As a non-profit organization we depend on the support of members and volunteers. Learn how you can help us protect central New Jersey’s water and environment.Get Involved
From our nearly 1,000-acre nature reserve in Hopewell Township, Mercer County to locations across central New Jersey, Watershed staff and volunteers work to protect and restore our natural habitats. Our reserve hosts the LEED-Platinum Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science & Education; the Kate Gorrie Butterfly House; the Honey Brook Organic Farm; 4-acre Wargo Pond and more than 10 miles of hiking trails. The Watershed has partnered with other organizations to preserve thousands of additional acres, and created the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey and the D&R Greenway Land Trust.
For more than seven decades, The Watershed Institute has led the fight to preserve our region’s water and land. We engage local and state policy makers, urging them to strengthen environmental protections, improve planning and zoning, and make more informed decisions about our future. We work cooperatively with local towns through our Project for Municipal Excellence, and speak out against development proposals–from pipelines to tract housing–that threaten forests, wetlands, streams and other fragile habitats.
Science and Stewardship
Across the region, we collect key data on the health of our streams and on other environmental factors. We distribute the information to residents and public officials, and work with them to address pollution of our water supplies and waterways. We design and implement strategies to restore degraded habitats, like removing dams that harm our rivers and installing green infrastructure systems to address polluted stormwater runoff. Our GIS Center (Geographic Information System) combines scientific data with mapping systems to promote better understanding of environmental issues facing our communities. Our “River-Friendly” program works with residents, schools, businesses and golf courses to help them become better environmental stewards.
The Watershed Institute serves more than 13,000 children, teens and adults through nearly 350 programs and events each year. Our experts teach environmental science through an inquiry-based, problem solving model. Watershed Nature Camp inspires an appreciation of nature in children from Kindergarten through 9th grade and our summer science academy engages high school students in real-world environmental challenges. We train K-12 science teachers in engaging, hands on workshops and provide adult programs that tap college professors to provide in-depth learning on natural history and other topics.
History of the ‘Shed’
In 1949 a handful of farsighted community leaders joined forces to form the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, now known as The Watershed Institute. Concerned at the time about agricultural runoff, soil erosion, and stream sedimentation, the Watershed Association became central New Jersey’s first environmental group.
Since that time, our focus has evolved. Today we protect clean water and the environment through a combination of conservation, advocacy, science and education. Thanks to the loyal support of our members and volunteers the Watershed Institute has grown into one of the largest and most respected watershed associations in the country.
Three important figures in Watershed Association history:
David Hunter McAlpin Sr.
Watershed Association founder
A charter trustee of the Conservation Foundation, which merged with the World Wildlife Fund in 1990, Mr. McAlpin sought the advice and support of Conservation Foundation founder Henry Fairfield Osborn Jr. who saw a critical need for grassroots organizations to protect the environment at the watershed scale. With Osborn’s guiding spirit, Mr. McAlpin and a committee of five helped attract enough interest in soil erosion and forest management issues to transform the all-volunteer group into a permanent fixture in the community. Mr. McAlpin also served as Association President and Membership Chairman during his tenure.
Kathleen Anderson Peyton
Watershed Association founder
The Conservation Chair for the Garden Club of Princeton, Mrs. Peyton took interest in one of the nation’s first watershed association – the Brandywine Valley Watershed Association -and felt it could work as a model for an organization to protect natural resources in central New Jersey. Part of a committee of five, she helped identify the 265-square-mile region now known as the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed and solicited the help of the Soil Conservation Service to take on the first surveys of this area for soil erosion.
Dr. Muriel Gardiner Buttinger
Watershed Association benefactor
Dr. Muriel Gardiner Buttinger was the Watershed Association’s primary benefactor. A student studying medicine in Vienna at the beginning of World War II, Dr. Buttinger risked her life working to transport Jews out of the country – for which she was later awarded the Austrian Cross of Honor. After the war, she and her family moved to the historic Drake Farmstead in Hopewell. A psychiatrist dedicated to children and an early and avid supporter of the Watershed Association’s work, Dr. Buttinger ultimately gifted her farm – more than 400 acres of land – to the Watershed Association, laying the foundation for the Watershed Reserve and Honey Brook Organic Farm.