Success Stories: Coursey Pond

Coursey Pond, in southeast Kent County, is a 58-acre pond draining to the Murderkill River, a tributary to the Delaware Bay. The headwaters of the Murderkill River begin just west of Felton and flow towards Bowers Beach, with the lower 10.5-mile portion of the river influenced by tides. The Coursey Pond area is home to a rare species of Bald Cypress and a population of Atlantic White Cedar. The land use within the watershed is primarily agricultural.


NPS pollution from agricultural animal operations and septic systems caused elevated bacteria levels in Delaware’s Coursey Pond. As a result, DNREC added Coursey Pond to Delaware’s Section 303(d) List in 2002 for bacteria. Project partners provided technical and financial assistance to farmers to encourage the implementation of agricultural BMPs such as nutrient management planning, cover crop implementation and the installation of structural BMPs. Water quality improved as a result of these restoration activities, enabling DNREC to remove Coursey Pond from the 303(d) List for bacteria.


Monthly data collected from September 1996 through August 2001 indicated that Coursey Pond exceeded the water quality standard for bacteria. Therefore, DNREC placed Coursey Pond (segment DE220-L03 _ 00) on the 303(d) List for high bacteria counts in 2002. Likely contributors to the degraded water quality include agriculture operations, lawn care products, and leaking septic systems.


The Kent Conservation District offered technical assistance to the farming community by providing nutrient management planning and cost-share funding for agricultural BMPs.

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation plans and Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts were developed

Between 2002 and 2004:

  • 9 manure storage structures installed
  • 8 composters installed
  • 6 heavy-use protection area pads installed
  • 732 acres of cover crops were planted

After 2004:

  • 14 acres of grass buffers installed
  • 31.2 acres of hardwood trees planted


The efforts of the Kent Conservation District, along with new state regulations for nutrient management, septic pump-outs, concentrated animal feeding operations, and onsite wastewater systems, led to reduced bacteria inputs.

Sampling data noted in the state’s 2012 CWA section 305(b) report showed that Coursey Pond had a geometric mean of 44 colony-forming unites per 100 milliliters of bacteria, which meets the Delaware’s freshwater bacteria water quality standard. Monitoring will be ongoing in Coursey Pond to ensure that the pond continues to meet water quality standards.

Partners and Funding

  • Clean Water Act 319 funds ~ $156,670
  • Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
  • Delaware Conservation Cost Share Program
  • Delaware Department of Agriculture
  • Delaware Nonpoint Source Program
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program
  • Kent Conservation District ~ $32,940
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency