As the Raritan’s riparian areas are converted to other land uses (both urban and agricultural), and as other pervious surfaces are converted to more impervious surfaces, the Raritan region has become increasingly vulnerable to flooding and its impacts.
Transitional areas between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are vital to watershed health. Riparian areas and natural floodplains protect streambanks and remove sediments and nutrients from runoff, reduce flooding, protect aquatic ecosystems, and provide habitat for terrestrial and aquatic organisms.
Hard infrastructure can increase the speed and volume of potentially contaminated runoff into streams that exacerbate the effects of precipitation events and further degrade riparian zones as streams cut into banks and become disconnected from their floodplains.
The cumulative impact for the three most recent historic storms – Floyd, Irene, and Sandy — as measured by national flood insurance payouts was over $203.8 million dollars per square mile. Climate studies indicate that the Raritan region may experience more extreme weather including more extreme precipitation and drought in the near future. Greater attention to flooding, drought and even wildfire should be paid to promote enhanced resiliency for the Raritan region.