DEP Posts Water Quality Inventory Report on Website
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today completed posting
on its website the draft 2000 Water Quality Inventory Report, which provides
the most comprehensive data to date on New Jersey's surface waters. The
report shows that the state's water quality has been improving in many
areas and more waters now comply with state and federal water quality
The report provides detailed information on the following:
- surface water quality status and trends
- the attainment of designated uses specified in New Jersey's surface
water quality standards
- source and cause assessments
- New Jersey's water pollution control program and major strategies
to maintain and improve water quality
- special state water quality concerns
"Water quality in New Jersey, in general, is improving and we are working
to achieve further progress, primarily from nonpoint sources of pollution,
through contracts with each of the state's 20 watershed management areas.
Land preservation also continues to be a major strategy of this administration
for protecting water quality now and in the future," said DEP Commissioner
This is the most comprehensive Water Quality Inventory Report the state
has done and provides a number of water quality assessments for the first
time including drinking water, agricultural and industrial uses; lake
bathing beaches; and aquatic life in coastal waters. The Department is
continuing to enhance its capabilities to perform thorough water quality
The bi-annual report, submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) for review, uses data collected from monitoring programs
throughout the state between 1995-1999. After EPA comment and any following
revisions, the final report also will be available on the web and in hard
copy. The draft report website is (www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/watershed/waterteam.htm).
Major findings of the report include:
Coastal waters - recreational use
Background: New Jersey's 179 ocean beaches and 138 bay beaches
are closely monitored (5,000 to 6,000 samples per summer) for sanitary
quality by local and State environmental health agencies. New Jersey
has the most comprehensive program in the country for coastal recreational
beach monitoring and public notification and was the model for the national
beach monitoring legislation recently signed by the President. Monitoring
and data assessment is coordinated by DEP and compared to New Jersey
Department of Health and Senior Services standards for primary contact.
Results: New Jersey's ocean and bay bathing beaches are safe
for swimming. Based on most recent data (1999), New Jersey's beaches
are 100% swimmable. DEP's coastal beach milestone (100% of the State's
coastal recreational waters will be safe for swimming by 2005) has been
Comparison: The attached chart shows the reduction in beach
closures between 1990 and 2000. [Chart
not available for the Web version of this news release.]
Coastal waters - aquatic life
Background: The assessment relied on dissolved oxygen levels.
Results: Ocean and estuary life are generally healthy. 91%
of assessed coastal waters have sufficient oxygen concentrations to
support aquatic life. 9% partially support aquatic life. Transient
low dissolved oxygen in the ocean sometimes occurs in the summer, potentially
affecting aquatic life while it occurs.
Comparison: Aquatic life designated uses in New Jersey estuaries
and ocean waters were assessed for the first time in this report.
New Jersey has been a national leader in opening shellfish beds
for harvest, with 88.9% currently harvestable.
Due to improvements in water quality, New Jersey has increased shellfish
waters available for harvest each year for the past 13 years due to
an improving trend in water quality and leads the nation in shellfish
restoration acreage. New Jersey also leads the nation in the amount
of shellfish harvested, with more than 75 million pounds harvested per
year. DEP is implementing a Shellfish Action Plan to increase available
shellfish beds to 90% by 2005. (see chart) [Chart
not available for the Web version of this news release.]
Lakes - recreational use
Background: Data collected by county health departments and
local lake managers were compiled and compared to New Jersey Department
of Health and Senior Services standards for primary contact for the
Water Quality Inventory Report for first time.
Results: Of New Jersey's 367 recreational lake bathing beaches
(located on 310 lakes), 74% fully support, 13% partially support,
and 7% do not support swimming; 6% could not be assessed due to
lack of sufficient data.
Comparison: Statewide information for lake bathing beaches is
available for the first time in this report.
Lakes - aquatic life
Background: Aquatic life uses were assessed in lakes using data
from the Clean Lakes Program (lake trophic status) and, for the first
time, the Fish and Wildlife Program (fish population assessments). Most
available data were more than five years old.
Results: Based on data from both programs, 98% of 18,360
lake acres assessed fully support aquatic life. This includes 30%
that fully support aquatic life and 68% that fully support aquatic life
but are threatened by eutrophication (excessive nutrient levels). Also,
a new lakes assessment identified that 68% of lakes reviewed provide
high quality fisheries. For example, Round Valley Reservoir is one of
the premier lake trout fisheries in the country.
Causes: Eutrophic lakes are characterized by significant growth
of aquatic plants and can experience depleted dissolved oxygen. Eutrophication
is accelerated in many New Jersey lakes because they are shallow man-made
impoundments impacted by nutrients and sediments from both point and
nonpoint sources. Aquatic life may be negatively affected by low dissolved
oxygen levels and temperature changes occurring in eutrophic lakes.
Rivers and streams - Surface Water Quality Standards
An evaluation of water chemistry in freshwater streams indicated the
following results. The percent of monitoring stations meeting Surface
Water Quality Standards for dissolved oxygen, ammonia, and total phosphorus
has increased over the past 25 years (1974-1997). Most recent data are
from 1995 to 1997.
- For dissolved oxygen, necessary for most forms of aquatic
life, most recent data indicate that 94% of monitored stations met standards.
Dissolved oxygen levels have been increasing: the percent of monitored
stations meeting standards increased from 85% in the 1975-1979 monitoring
period to 94% in the 1995 to 1997 monitoring period (see attached chart).
available for the Web version of this news release.]
- For ammonia, which can be toxic to aquatic life, most recent
data indicate that 100% of monitored stations met standards. This is
consistent with reductions in ammonia in sewage effluent.
- For nitrate, which can be a concern in finished drinking water,
most recent data indicate that 99% of monitored stations met standards.
Nitrate in finished drinking water consistently met drinking water standards
between 1995 and 1998. However, nitrate in surface water used for water
supplies was identified as an emerging issue.
- For phosphorus, which can contribute to eutrophication, most
recent data indicate that 38% of monitored stations met standards. Between
1986 and 1995, 50% of stations had decreasing trends, and only one monitoring
station had an increasing trend. Levels are still higher than desired
in some streams, however. Additional efforts are underway to determine
whether and where eutrophication is occurring. Reduction measures will
be implemented through watershed management.
Rivers and streams - recreational use
Background: Assessment is based on monitoring at 75 stations
between 1995 and 1997 for bacteria levels. These data do not evaluate
risks to human health from swimming in rivers and streams because monitoring
stations are not necessarily located where swimming and secondary contact
Results: Of 75 monitored stations, 21% fully support, 15%
partially support, and 63% do not support swimming. Many of the
State's urban rivers cannot support swimming uses because of elevated
bacteria levels. Comparison: There has been little change since 1986
in these numbers.
Causes: Fecal coliform pollution causes non-attainment of recreational
designated uses in rivers and streams and is suspected to occur primarily
from domestic pets, livestock and wild animal wastes transported to
waters by stormwater, overland water, and direct contact with water.
Rivers and streams - aquatic life
Background: Assessment is based on monitoring of bottom-dwelling
insects, which indicate the overall health of aquatic communities. Monitoring
occurs at over 800 locations statewide on a five-year rotating schedule.
Round 1 sampling was completed between 1992 and 1996. Round 2 sampling
is now ongoing and this report includes the Upper Delaware region.
Results: Most recent monitoring in the Upper Delaware region
(1997-1998) indicates that of the 139 stations, 58% fully support
(non-impaired), 41% partially support (moderately impaired), and 1%
does not support aquatic life (severely impaired).
Comparison: Monitoring results in the same region between 1992
and 1993 indicate that 67% of monitored stations fully supported, 28%
partially supported, and 5 % did not support aquatic life.
Causes: Impairments are thought to be caused in part by degraded
stream habitat quality as caused, for example, by erosion, stormwater
flow, or low flow conditions.
Fish caught in New Jersey waters can be eaten, with some restrictions
in certain areas for certain species.
Important commercial and recreational species can safety be eaten by
everyone including: summer and winter flounder, weakfish, perch, carp.
More than 173 million pounds of finfish valued at $95 million were commercially
harvested in New Jersey waters in 1995.
Preliminary data indicate that levels of PCBs in certain fish species
are declining (1981-1997 data). Monitoring to evaluate current concentrations
is ongoing and fish consumption advisories for specific species and
areas will be adjusted as appropriate to reflect new findings. New Jersey
also is working with other states to limit releases of mercury and other
pollutants from regional air emission sources. Many fish issue impairments
were largely attributed to historical pollution and nonpoint water pollution
sources, including air deposition.
Management approaches to maintain and improve water quality
Through watershed management, specific sources of pollution in affected
watersheds will be identified and managed. DEP is conducting studies
to identify factors that contribute to impairments and will continue
to implement projects to address these impairments. Partnership groups
for each of the state's 20 watershed management areas have agreed to
begin developing plans for their specific locations. The proposed Water
Quality and Watershed Management Rules are designed to restore and maintain
water quality and ecosystem health.
Programs to control nonpoint sources include DEP's Municipal Stormwater
Planning and Management program to reduce impacts from stormwater runoff.
The New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust also is funding nonpoint
source projects, such as the restoration of Colonial Lake in Mercer
Compliance with permit limits at industrial and municipal wastewater
treatment plants is very high. There has been a decreasing trend in
the number of treatment plants in significant noncompliance.
Other major water quality strategies include:
- Land acquisition by various entities and from a variety of funding
- Conservation Resource Enhancement Program (CREP) - land conservation
program provides for agricultural buffers
- $1.3 million per year focuses on agricultural best management practices
- initiated in 1998
- Freshwater wetlands rule proposal - includes wetlands buffers
- Wetlands regulation and enforcement - one of the strictest programs
in the nation
- Surface Water Quality Standards proposal - improved anti-degradation
- Action Plans for shellfish and beaches
- DEP National Environmental Performance Partnership System (NEPPS)
and Strategic Plan
- Additional funding for water assessment in the next fiscal year