Christina River

Watersheds of the Piedmont
Brandywine Creek | Christina River | Naamans’ Creek | Red Clay Creek | Shellpot Creek | White Clay Creek

The Christina River watershed is one of four major watersheds in the 565 sq. mi. Christina Basin. The Christina Basin is part of the 13,000 sq. mi. Delaware River Basin. The White Clay, Red Clay, and Brandywine creeks are tributaries of the Christina River and flow southward out of the Piedmont geologic province in Pennsylvania and into Delaware near Newark, Yorklyn, and Wilmington, respectively. The headwaters of the Christina River lie within the state of Maryland and enter Delaware west of Newark. The Christina River is tidal from just south of the town of Christiana to its confluence with the Delaware River at Wilmington. The Red and White Clay creeks converge in the vicinity of Stanton, Delaware, and the combined flow empties into the tidal Christina near Churchmans Marsh. Extensive tidal freshwater wetlands, including Churchmans Marsh, exist along the lower Christina. The Brandywine Creek flows through Wilmington and enters the Christina River just before the Christina flows into the Delaware River. The majority of the Christina River watershed is located in New Castle County (DE). Lower portions of the Christina River are under tidal influence.

The towns in the Christina River watershed include Newark (DE), Elkton (MD), London Britain Township (PA), and Franklin Township (PA).
Land Uses
The Christina River is the most urbanized watershed in the Christina Basin with 59% urban/suburban followed by forest/wetland (25%) and agriculture (15%) uses. Collectively the White Clay, Red Clay, Brandywine and upper Christina are used to supply drinking water to more than 50% of New Castle County's population. United Water Delaware (UWD) operates the Christiana Water Treatment Plant. It provides drinking water to the UWD southern service area that extends from I-95 south to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. This water treatment plant draws water from Smalleys Pond, storage volume 40 million gallons, and is allocated to withdraw and treat 6 million gallons per day (mgd). The water is distributed to residential, commercial, and industrial customers within a service area that stretches from the Pennsylvania state line in northeast New Castle County to the northern edge of the Chesapeake & Delaware canal.

The watershed is the site of the Port of Wilmington, an important shipping link, and one of the largest importers of orange juice, Chilean grapes, bananas, and automobiles nationally.
Wildlife and Fisheries
The tidal waters of the Christina River support a striped bass fishery and spawning grounds.
The Christina watershed is located in New Castle County, Delaware, and extends north and west into Maryland and Pennsylvania. In Delaware, this watershed includes the cities and towns of Newark, Christiana, Newport, and Wilmington. Approximately 46% of the wetlands in the watershed have been filled or otherwise lost since the early 1700s. As populations grew and heavy industries expanded, many wetlands in the eastern half of the watershed were diked, drained, or filled to allow for this development.

Wetlands in this watershed were found to have an overall health grade of D. Although highly impacted, these wetlands are able to provide some natural benefits, but at a reduced rate, such as flood storage, water purification, and educational opportunities.

Tidal (F), flat (C), and riverine (F) wetland types were assessed and graded (grade in parenthesis) in this watershed. The most common stressors to these wetlands were invasive plant species, diking, dredge soil piles, and point source discharge in the wetland, and development, impervious surfaces, and large mowed areas in the lands surrounding the wetland (buffer). The complete reports and data for this assessment are available online.
Nutrients and Bacteria
The nutrient and bacteria TMDLs for the Delaware portion of the Christina River requires varied reductions based on the stream segment of between 0-62% reduction in nitrogen, between 0-77% reduction in phosphorus and between 29-95% reduction in bacteria.
The Christina River Watershed has a total of two hundred and fifty-nine sites listed in the Site Investigation and Restoration Section database. There are eighty four Brownfield program sites, seventy-eight sites in the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP), seventy-four state-fund lead (HSCA) sites, seventeen sites that have undergone a preliminary assessment / site inspection (PA/SI), four sites listed as a Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) and two National Priorities List (NPL) sites.

Each of the sites is sampled through the programs listed above for a consistent suite of environmental contaminants. These contaminants are broadly classified as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs), Pesticides, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Metals as listed using USEPA and DNREC defined standards. When sites are adjacent to water bodies sediment samples are collected to assess potential impact from a site on the health of the waters.

In water bodies of the Christina River Watershed, samples have indicated that PCBs, dieldrin and chlordane are present in the environment at levels requiring further attention under the Clean Water Act (1972). The Christina River Watershed is on the 303d list of impaired waters as well as having State of Delaware Fish Consumption Advisories for PCBs, dieldrin and chlordane.

If you would like to view reports for any of the sites in the SIRS program please follow the link the DNREC Environmental Navigator to search by map for the Christina River Watershed.
Geology and Soils
The Christina River watershed lies primarily within the Atlantic Coastal Plain, which consists of an unconsolidated mass of caustic sediments that increases in thickness south of the geologic Fall Line.
Cultural Resources
An urban renaissance along the Christina is underway resulting in the Riverfront Arts Center, Tubman-Garrett An urban renaissance along the Christina is underway resulting in the Riverfront Arts Center, Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, Christina Riverwalk, factory store outlets, restaurants, the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball stadium, urban wetland restoration and the DuPont Environmental Education Center's wildlife refuge.
Further Resources