Rutgers University’s Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, with input from watershed partners, has developed a new report that updates the New Jersey Water Supply Authority’s Raritan Basin: Portrait of a Watershed that was an earlier assessment of the Raritan basin focusing on key indicators for water quality and quantity. This new report employs similar methodology but with more recent data from 2002, 2007 and 2012. The report provides an assessment of how and where the Raritan watershed is changing with important implications for planning, policy and decision-making at the federal, state and local levels.
Eleven key indicators were assessed for this report including: population; housing units; urban land use; impervious surface cover; forested, coastal and emergent wetlands; upland forest cover; prime agricultural land; groundwater recharge; fish and macroinvertebrate bioassessments; riparian area integrity; and known contaminant sites and groundwater contamination.
Overall comparison of this updated analysis with the prior 2002 report shows that trends were increasing for population, housing units, urban land use and impervious surface cover. An increasing trend for these indicators adds stress on water quality and supplies with potential negative impacts for the watershed. Trends were declining for all of the wetland land covers assessed as well as for upland forest, prime agricultural land and groundwater recharge. Downward trends for these indicators suggests that the watershed is losing its natural filtering capacity with attendant negative impacts to water quality. The bioassessment and riparian areas trends were mixed and there was not sufficient data to determine trends for the known contaminated sites and groundwater contamination indicators.
This report is the first in a series that will eventually assess a broad array of metrics of watershed health for the Raritan Basin. The intent is to inform watershed management planning in concert with remediation, restoration and protection efforts at the federal, state and local levels.
A PDF of the report can be accessed here.
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