The Raritan River Basin covers over 1,100 square miles of the state of New Jersey crossing the boundaries of seven counties. It is the largest system entirely contained in the state. Over a million people call the region home. The state’s largest contiguous wildlife corridor, it is a major source of the region’s drinking water and offers recreational opportunities to the region’s residents and visitors.
The Raritan River is formed from the confluence of the North Branch and South Branch in Branchburg, Somerset County. From there, it flows eastward past Manville where the Millstone River joins it, then into Middlesex County past New Brunswick and Edison on its way to the Raritan Bay. Its major tributaries include the Green Brook, the Lawrence Brook, the Millstone River and the South River, with numerous smaller tributaries. The health of the river is central to quality of life in the region. Approximately 1.5 million people live in the Raritan River Basin. Over 600,000 people work here, and millions drink its waters or use it for recreation. It supports important biological diversity, and has acted as a trade route throughout its history. The impacts of industrial uses and urbanization must be managed while addressing the quantity and quality of water in times of drought and flood.
Today, the Raritan suffers from pollutants in stormwater runoff from farms and urban development; nitrogen, phosphorus and other discharges from wastewater treatment plants; and contamination from past and presently operating industrial facilities built along its shores. The U.S. Clean Water Act and NJDEP regulations have long sought to regulate or control the uses of the River and development along its shores, but their efforts have not been able to remedy the legacy of past transgressions. Developing a shared vision, commitment and agenda for the future is a high priority.