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  Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards

Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)

The federal Clean Water Act requires each State to address impaired, “unhealthy” waterbodies through Total Maximum Daily Loads. TMDLs diagnose the source of the problem and quantify the water quality recovery, assisting DEP in achieving its priorities of waters that are swimmable, fishable and safe for drinking.

Pollutant sources, which are the cause of these unhealthy waters, fall into two categories - point sources and nonpoint sources. Examples include:

Nonpoint Sources
  • Excess fertlizer from residential
    or agriculture run-off
  • Oil, grease and toxic chemicals
    from urban run-off
  • Sediment from construction sites,
    crop and forest land
  • Salt from irrigation or de-icing
  • Bacteria from animal waste
  • Atmospheric depostion

Point Sources
  • Municipal wastewater treatment plant discharges
  • Industrial wastewater treatment plant discharges
  • Residential and urban stormwater runoff*

* This source could fall in either category; however, as per the Clean Water Act stormwater runoff is regulated as a point source.

Pollutants levels arriving from the land area that drains to the waterbody are too high and need to be reduced to a “healthy” quantity.

NJPDES Program

A TMDL implementation plan is developed to identify a suite of measures that are needed to reduce loads from each source to levels that will meet surface water quality standards. The measures include both regulatory and non-regulatory actions.

Regulatory measures typically include effluent limitations or additional measures that are incorporated into wastewater or stormwater permits issued pursuant to the New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES).

Non-regulatory measures include best practices for agricultural land use, riparian restoration, and promoting watershed stewardship activities such as rain gardens and rain barrels. These can often be accomplished through receipt of grants related to nonpoint source pollution. Find out more about water quality restoration grants for nonpoint source pollution HERE.

Illustration by Jodie Battaglia

For more information, please contact Kimberly Cenno, Bureau Chief,
Bureau of Environmental Analysis, Restoration and Standards at (609) 633-1441.

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Last Updated: February 2, 2021