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
"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
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
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.