New Jersey Watershed Conference Advances Knowledge on Clean Water

About 100 people gained insights on clean water issues, citizen science, polluted runoff management, green infrastructure and other key issues related to the health of New Jersey’s watersheds at The 2nd Annual New Jersey Watershed Conference at The Watershed Institute.

Keynote Speaker Michele Putnam, Assistant Commissioner for Water Resources Management at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, opened the conference with a broad overview of the state’s efforts on water issues ranging from stormwater utilities, green infrastructure, safe drinking water, asset management, and climate change.

She said feedback from public forums directs and guides the state’s decision-making. For example, input from stakeholders helped the state’s stormwater management rule change, which is expected to be added to the New Jersey Register in December.

“The rule is really clear that you have to use green infrastructure to reach standards; gone are the subjective interpretations and that makes this rule a huge step forward,” Putnam said.

She said the state analyzes and uses the data from citizen science on water monitoring from around the state for its integrated reports on state water quality. The information helps the state assess the health of waterways from point and non-point sources, as well as find solutions to emerging contaminants.

“I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate all the work being done by citizen monitoring and how it advances water resource protections,” she said.

Conference attendees, including state and officials, town planners, engineers, consultants, environmental commissioners, and environmental, watershed and conservation nonprofit groups, attended breakout sessions on topics ranging from green amendments to using drones to monitor river restoration.

Jim Waltman, executive director of the Watershed, opened the conference by encouraging collaboration among the various stakeholders, participants and attendees.

“There is some really great work being done in the state, from dam removal to oyster restoration to designing and installing green stormwater infrastructure,” Waltman said. “It is time to get back to serious planning for watersheds and I’m excited to be with you all to think, plan, strategize and prioritize what we must do next for New Jersey’s watersheds.”