Urban areas are expanding rapidly in the United States and soil preferable for development is evaluated based on depth to seasonal high groundwater table, slope, and depth to bedrock (NJWSA, 2002). Soil appropriate for agriculture is also suitable for development. Higher population growth combined with economic activities encourages construction of new houses as well as commercial centers. As a result, encroachment of urban areas into prime agricultural land is observed. Prime agricultural land is the portion of agricultural lands that consists of better soil quality, growing season, and soil moisture suitable for production of food, forage, and fiber with a sustainable yield (USDA, 2016). Prime agricultural land generally has greater water permeability and, due to gentler slopes, is less prone to erosion. It provides economically viable options to farmers by producing higher yields with minimal management and proper farming methods (USDA, 2016).
The Raritan had over 44,500 acres of prime agriculture lands converted to other land uses over the study period, which represents a 42.3 percent change of use for this land cover. While the trend in prime agriculture lands is declining, the implications to water quality are unclear.