Home > News Bytes > DRBC Shares its Water Quality Expertise with Staff of Federal & State Legislators
DRBC Shares its Water Quality Expertise with Staff of Federal & State Legislators

One of the key components of DRBC’s water quality management strategy is monitoring, because, quite simply, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. 

DRBC staff are active throughout the year monitoring the Delaware River, collecting samples and analyzing data. This summer, staff reached out to the district offices of our local state and federal legislators to invite them to visit one of our sampling locations in order to learn about the commission and our water quality programs and to see the team in action.

On August 10, commission staff welcomed U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8)’s State Director Meghan Shroeder and Deputy State Director Sean Roche. And, on August 23, commission staff welcomed a delegation from N.J. Legislative District 15: State Senator Shirley Turner’s Chief of Staff Meredith Rivera, Assemblywoman Elizabeth M. Muoio’s Chief of Staff Jo Ann Povia, and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora’s Chief of Staff Brendan Neal. All were interested in not only learning more about the important work that DRBC does, but also about how we do it.

The site chosen was the Calhoun Street Bridge, connecting Trenton, N.J. and Morrisville, Pa. This is a key sampling location for several of DRBC’s monitoring programs, as the Delaware River at Trenton is the largest source of freshwater to the Delaware Estuary, or the part of the river south of Trenton where salt and fresh water mix. It is also easily accessible, making it a great location for hands-on learning. 

One parameter that DRBC monitors closely is dissolved oxygen, which is essential for fish and other aquatic life. It enters the water from the air and also as a by-product of photosynthesis by algae and aquatic plants. However, oxygen levels can be depleted by nutrients, for example nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as by wastewater discharges and decaying vegetation. The Delaware Estuary has historically been plagued by low dissolved oxygen levels. Although there has been great improvement over the years, leading to increased fish migration and reproduction, there are still times of the year where low dissolved oxygen levels remain a barrier to full aquatic life health in this section of the river.

The DRBC is currently looking into whether the criteria for dissolved oxygen should to be updated in the Delaware Estuary in order to increase fish reproduction and improve overall water quality. A key part of this effort is developing a water quality model to demonstrate how higher levels of dissolved oxygen can be achieved. Samples collected at the Calhoun Street Bridge are being analyzed for phosphorus and nitrogen in order to better understand how levels of these nutrients in the water affect oxygen levels. Results will help inform the development of this model.

DRBC staff work hard to fulfill the commission’s mission of managing and protecting the basin’s water resources. Being able to interact with federal and state legislative staffers and tell DRBC’s story is also an important part of that mission. Efforts by commission staff to provide learning opportunities to our federal, state, and local legislators, as well as the general public, are ongoing.