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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE

RELEASE: 1/10/02
02/5

CONTACT: Tom Baxter, 908-638-6121, NJ Water Supply Authority
or Loretta O'Donnell (609) 984-1795, DEP

Central New Jersey Survey Finds High Support for Water Quality Improvements

Most residents in central New Jersey rank the importance of water resources protection higher than reducing taxes, unemployment and road congestion according to a new survey conducted in the Raritan River Basin.

Residents are concerned about local rivers and lakes, development impacts, and the quality of their drinking water, and most support regulation and other action to improve water quality, according to the survey conducted for the New Jersey Water Supply Authority, lead agency for the Raritan Basin Watershed Management Project.

"This support for environmental improvements is notable because the survey was conducted at a time when concern about security and the economy was high," said Dan Van Abs, manager of Watershed Protection Programs for the Authority.

"It's encouraging that the survey shows strong support for water protection actions. We will continue to further involve the public in our watershed planning and education efforts about how local preventative measures are needed to reduce water pollution runoff from lawns, streets, development, and agriculture," said DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn.

Residents were asked to weigh the importance of funding water against other public needs. Water protection was rated as more important than reducing state and local taxes, reducing road congestion, and reducing unemployment. Although law enforcement and education programs outscored water protection, a large number felt that the two priorities were equal.

The Authority contracted TechnoMetrica to conducted the survey in mid-fall with 801 residents of the Raritan River Basin. The basin covers an 1,100-square-mile area including Mount Olive, Clinton and Flemington to the west, Princeton and Hightstown to the south, and Perth Amboy and Freehold to the east, as well as the New Brunswick and Somerville areas. The basin drains to the Raritan Bay through the Millstone, North Branch Raritan, South Branch Raritan, Raritan and South Rivers.

The survey asked residents who is responsible for water issues. Individuals were not seen by most as playing a dominant role in water resource problems. About one third said that individuals primarily caused water pollution and development; less than one fifth said the same about stormwater runoff. However, blame for the lack of progress is shared - few felt that municipal sewer systems, farmers, business and industry and homeowners are doing a good job at minimizing water pollution in the region. Government, in general, was given slightly better ratings.

The survey showed that people support improved development controls and more open space preservation by large margins (70% each); smaller majorities supported action to improve drinking water, ground water and surface water quality, and the reduction of flood damages.

Results also showed support of more regulation for a wide variety of pollutant sources, such as industrial wastewater treatment plants, lawn care chemicals and land development (all 70% or greater), but less than a majority supported more regulation of agriculture.

Government funding was supported for repairing problems such as stream bank erosion, flood problems and stormwater management. There was equal support for government and farmer funding of agricultural pollutant controls, while most people felt that those with lawns should pay for the control of lawn care chemicals.

Most people claimed to read or watch news stories about water resource issues either frequently or almost always, and tend to receive most water news from the TV and newspapers. However, more than half felt that the news media do not provide enough coverage of these issues and that the quality of coverage was only fair or poor.

The telephone survey has a margin of error of 3.5%. The Raritan Basin Watershed Management Project, funded by the DEP and the Authority, will use the results of this survey to target public education needs and to help develop the watershed management plan for the Raritan River Basin.

The characterization and assessment phase in February 1999 and was completed in August 2001. That phase characterized water resource conditions in the basin, assessed the gaps between current and desired conditions and identified issues to be addressed through a management planning process. The planning phase began in October 2000, and will result in a basin management plan that will be adopted as an official policy document of DEP. The planning phase includes stakeholder involvement, public education, development of Total Maximum Development Loads for specific pollutants for specific waterways, and interim protection and restoration actions.

More information on the project is available from the project Web site, www.raritanbasin.org.

 

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