Location and Size
Cooks Creek Watershed is a 30-square-mile limestone valley watershed in northern Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The main stem of Cooks Creek flows in an easterly direction into the Delaware River. The watershed area consists of a number of small, mostly unnamed tributaries with approximately 24 square miles in Springfield Township and 5.5 square miles in Durham Township. Some headwater tributaries are located in Lower Saucon Township, Northampton County. Small areas of the watershed are also found in Upper Saucon and Williams Townships in Northampton County and Haycock and Richland Townships in Bucks County.
Characteristics of the Watershed
The Cooks Creek Watershed has been designated as an Exceptional Value Cold Water Fishery under the Pennsylvania Chapter 93 Water Quality Standards and is the only wild brown trout and native brook trout fishery in Bucks County. Cooks Creek Watershed is home to numerous rare and endangered species, including several rare reptiles and amphibians. The Cooks Creek Watershed was rated Priority 1 in the 1999 Bucks County Natural Areas Inventory, is part of Heritage Conservancy’s Lasting Landscapes® program, and has been designated as an area of special concern by the Highlands Coalition. Several recent studies conducted by the Durham Township Environmental Advisory Council (DTEAC) have indicated that the biological communities within Cooks Creek Watershed are sensitive to changes in water quality and quantity. The underlying geology is mostly limestone, and contains a high quality drinking water aquifer that is the sole source of drinking water for the majority of the residents.
Land use in the watershed is mostly agricultural and rural residential although the scattered small village centers have some commercial zoning. The only industrial zoning is located in Durham Township at the creek’s confluence with the Delaware River. There are several small businesses that may represent a threat to water quality, although preliminary investigations have shown no measurable impacts. Water usage in the watershed is mostly residential, with a small water authority in Springfield Township that obtains its water from the springs that abound along the limestone/granite interface that surrounds the watershed.
Former uses of Cooks Creek included diversions to power grain, lumber and paper mills. While these facilities are no longer in use, the low-level dams used represent an ongoing impact for the wildlife that uses the watershed. By far the largest ongoing threat to water quality and quantity in the watershed is residential development. The fragile nature of the limestone aquifer and the increase in development pressure in surrounding townships is the main reason the DTEAC was compelled to initiate the Cooks Creek Watershed Protection Plan. The overall goal of the Cooks Creek Watershed Protection Plan and associated plans was to provide a sound database from which comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances appropriate for the watershed can be made that take into account the current quality of the watershed, the quantity of available drinking water, and its sensitivity to degradation. To view a copy of the Cooks Creek Watershed Protection Plan, click here.
Water quality monitoring has been a driving force of Cooks Creek Watershed Association since the first reclassification of the waters of Cooks Creek in 1976. Cooks Creek Watershed Association has tested the stream at varying places and times. In 1975, testing for E. coli bacteria was started and continued until 1977. The Fish Commission has surveyed the stream with shock treatments and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has tested the waters for dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, nitrates and phosphates. Cooks Creek Watershed Association joined the Delaware Riverkeeper Network in testing for these five parameters at four sites in the watershed. Cooks Creek Watershed Association was asked to assist the U.S. Geologic Survey in measuring the groundwater levels and flows in the Cooks Creek Watershed. Cooks Creek Watershed Association members participated for two years, measuring rainfall and recording meteorological events. The monitoring of the creek has been recently increased to include the activation of two stream gauging stations, one in Durham and one in Springfield as well as a monthly groundwater level monitoring program. Information from these programs will be used to develop a calibrated hydrologic model for the watershed to guard against overuse of water resources at the expense of the Cooks Creek.
The Cooks Creek Watershed Association is currently involved in regional planning efforts that will ensure the long-term protection of the creek. Members are currently active in local government in Durham, Springfield and Lower Saucon townships. Cooks Creek Watershed Association members spearheaded the effort to found Environmental Advisory Councils (EACs) in all three townships and hold positions as members of Planning Commissions and on the Board of Supervisors. In 2002, the Cooks Creek Watershed Protection Plan was approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR). This award-winning plan was the culmination of over three years of study and more than 1000 hours of volunteer effort, mostly on the part of Cooks Creek Watershed Association members. In addition to the plan, the project involved the creation of a Geographical Information System (GIS) mapping system.
Our future will include expanding our public involvement and educational outreach programs. In 2004, the Cooks Creek Watershed Association sponsored a watershed-wide highway litter cleanup program that has become an annual event. Other programs are possible, limited only by the interest of our membership. If you are interested in becoming a member, working on conservation projects, or making a donation, please click here.