Skip to content

The Delaware Riverkeeper

The Role of the
Delaware Riverkeeper

Maya K. van Rossum has served as the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network since 1994. The role of the Delaware Riverkeeper is to give the Delaware River, and the communities that depend upon it and appreciate it, a voice at every decisionmaking table that could provide help or do harm. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network that van Rossum leads is the only citizen action organization that works the entire length and breadth of the Delaware River and its watershed, speaking and working for both its protection and its restoration. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s main office is in Bristol, PA. 

Protecting the Right to Pure Water, Clean Air and a Healthy Environment 

van Rossum was one of the original petitioners in the landmark Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania case decided by the PA Supreme Court in 2013 which strengthened environmental standing opportunities, declared unconstitutional key sections of the pro-drilling Act 13 legislation, and reinvigorated the strength of Pennsylvania Constitution’s Environmental Rights Amendment for protecting the right to pure water, clean air and a healthy environment for present and future generations. van Rossum was a petitioner in both in her individual capacity as the Delaware Riverkeeper and as leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

van Rossum Appointed 

van Rossum has been appointed by PA Governor Rendell to Pennsylvania’s Delaware River Basin Regional Water Resources Committee, by NJ Governor Codey to NJ’s Flood Mitigation Task Force, by the DRBC Commissioners to the Delaware River Basin Flood Mitigation Task Force, by DEP Secretary McGinty to the Pennsylvania Stormwater BMP Manual Oversight Committee, and to the Heinz Center’s Coastal Zone Innovations Committee.

Water Quality Committees

As the Delaware Riverkeeper, van Rossum also serves on a number of the region’s water quality committees, including the Delaware River Basin Commission’s PCB’s Implementation Advisory Committee and Water Quality Advisory Committee, and on New Jersey’s Stormwater Focus Group. van Rossum serves as a member of the Area Plan Committee and the Area Maritime Security Committee, both of which are committees of the United States Coast Guard, the Philadelphia Group.

Photo of Maya K. van Rossum

Licensed Attorney 

van Rossum is a licensed attorney in three states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. Since Spring 2002, van Rossum has served as an adjunct professor and director of the Environmental Law Clinic at Temple’s Beasley School of Law which she founded.

Educational and Art Organizations 

van Rossum’s River expertise is also valued by educational and art organizations. For example, in April 2015 van Rossum was asked to join the Advisory Committee for the Art@Bartram’s Advisory Council to give input into an arts initiative designed to bring people closer to the Schuylkill River and Bartram’s Garden.

Inspiring Generations

van Rossum generally focuses her attention on adult and young adult audiences, but she will offer her time and passion for speaking to younger generations as well, with a goal towards inspiring their love and care for our natural resources.

This is personal!

On November 2020, Maya van Rossum wrote a piece documenting current struggles facing the Delaware River: “Taking a stand in defense of the Delaware River – This is personal for me”.

Read the Piece Now

Closeup of the Pennsylvania state flag

Why State and Federal Constitutions?

For decades, activists have relied on federal and state legislation to fight for a cleaner environment. And for decades, they’ve been fighting a losing battle. But there is a solution.

The Solution

For decades, activists have relied on federal and state legislation to fight for a cleaner environment. And for decades, they’ve been fighting a losing battle. The sad truth is, our laws are designed to accommodate pollution rather than prevent it. It’s no wonder people feel powerless when it comes to preserving the quality of their water, air, public parks, and special natural spaces.

But there is a solution, argues veteran environmentalist Maya K. van Rossum: bypass the laws and turn to the ultimate authority — our state and federal constitutions.

In 2013, van Rossum and her team won a watershed legal victory that not only protected Pennsylvania communities from ruthless frackers but affirmed the constitutional right of people in the state to a clean and healthy environment. Following this victory, van Rossum inaugurated the Green Amendment movement, dedicated to empowering every American community to mobilize for constitutional change.

Graphic of The Green Amendment books.

About The Green Amendment 

Now, with The Green Amendment, van Rossum lays out an inspiring new agenda for environmental advocacy, one that will finally empower people, level the playing field, and provide real hope for communities everywhere. Readers will discover:

  • how legislative environmentalism has failed communities across America,
  • the transformational difference environmental constitutionalism can make,
  • the economic imperative of environmental constitutionalism, and
  • how to take action in their communities.

100% of the proceeds from the sale of The Green Amendment go to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Buy it now

Buy on Amazon More About The Book

Speaking Topics

  • For The Generations: The Right to Pure Water, Clean Air and a Health Environment – An Inspirational Story of Constitutional Environmental Rights.
  • The Delaware River’s story – a discussion of the past, present and potential future of the Delaware River and the communities that depend upon it.
  • Hot Issues Facing the Delaware River and its Watershed
  • Gas Drilling, Fracking, and all the Infrastructure They Require – the status, the future, and what this means for our watershed, region and country.
  • Pipelines – How Their Cuts Across the Landscape Harm our Forests, Rivers and Communities
  • Stormwater Runoff – its implications for water quality, flooding, and our communities
  • Enforcing Environmental Laws for Our River and Communities
  • Native Gardening for the River
  • Vegetated Stream Buffers & Healthy Floodplains — Why How To Protect Them
  • Sprawl and Riverfront Development
  • Water Quality Threats
  • Critters of the River Basin and the Plights They Face.
Previous Speaking Engagements

Special Honors & Awards

  • River Hero Award Recipient, River Network, 2020.
  • Named as one of Philadelphia Business Journal’s Power 100, 2019.
  • Living Now Evergreen Awards GOLD Winner in the Nature Conservation category for The Green Amendment, 2018. The Living Now Evergreen Book Medals were founded to “commemorate world-changing books”.
  • Woman of the Delaware River Watershed, PennFuture, 2018.
  • Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Finalist for The Green Amendment, Foreword Magazine, Inc., 2017.
  • Modern Day Difference MakerWomen of the Revolution, 2016.
  • Certification of Appreciation for Environmental Commitment to Our Region, South Jersey Land & Water Trust, March, 2010
  • Radnor’s Hall of Fame, Inducted 2008
  • “Giraffe Hero”, “Because you’ve stuck your neck out to speak the truth no matter how unpopular that truth is.” June, 2008.
  • Inaugural Recipient, The Nicholas A. Robinson Environmental Award, in recognition of significant contributions to environmental law by a Pace Law School graduate. 2005
  • Women’s Environmental Advocacy Leadership Award,, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, presented by NJ DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell, March 18, 2005
  • Touchstone Award, Society of Women Environmental Professionals, 2001
  • Water Bearer Award for Environmental Excellence, Clean Water Fund, 2001
  • Invited to testify, and did testify, before U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources, regarding Wild and Scenic Designation for the Lower Delaware River, July 18, 2000
  • The Robert P. Doherty Ribbon of Green Award, Darby Creek Valley Association, 2000
  • Advocacy Award, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, October, 1999
  • Outstanding Service Award, Widener University School of Law, 1998

Committees & Service

  • New Jersey Governor Murphy’s Environment & Energy Transition Team, 2018.
  • New Jersey Flood Mitigation Task Force, April 2005 to 2006, appointed by Governor Codey.
  • Pennsylvania Delaware Basin Regional Water Resources Committee, October 2003 to 2009, appointed by Governor Rendell for two terms (2003 & 2005).
  • Delaware River Basin Flood Mitigation Task Force, 2006 to present, appointed by the Commissioners of the Delaware River Basin Commission.
  • Pennsylvania Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual Oversight Committee, August 2003 to December 2006, appointed by DEP Secretary McGinty.
  • Philadelphia Area Committee, United States Coast Guard, Group Philadelphia, December 2004 to present.
  • Area Maritime Security Committee, United States Coast Guard, Group Philadelphia, March 2005 to present.
  • Water Quality Advisory Committee, Delaware River Basin Commission, 2000 to present, currently serving as Chair for 2013/2014 year.
  • Toxics Advisory Committee, Delaware River Basin Commission, 1995 to present
  • PCBs TMDL Implementation Advisory Committee, Delaware River Basin Commission, August 2003 to present.
  • Steering Committee, Water Protection Network, a coalition of hundreds of organizations from around the country advocating to ensure water projects and policies are economically and environmentally sound (2010 to present)
  • PDE Alliance for Comprehensive Ecosystem Solutions, a regional committee looking at restoration priorities for the Delaware Estuary, February 2010 to present
  • Board of Directors, Waterkeeper Alliance, a national organization dedicated to the community’s right to clean and healthy waterways, 2002 to 2006
  • Coastal Zone Innovations Committee, The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, 2003 to 2004.
  • Lower Delaware Wild & Scenic Management Plan Committee, and the Lower Delaware Advisory Committee.
  • Pennsylvania’s Citizen Volunteer Monitoring Panel, PA DEP, 1996.