stormwater drain

Princeton Delivers a Win for Clean Water

Princeton neighborhoods are safer from flooding and water intrusion resulting from new construction with Monday’s passage of an ordinance controlling polluted stormwater runoff. The Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance to better address stormwater runoff, which is believed to be the number one source of water pollution and flooding in our region.

“This was really a model for advocacy on an issue well executed by the Watershed and I think they are to be commended,” said Councilman Timothy Quinn just before the vote.

Mayor Liz Lempert said the ordinance is a good first step as Princeton continues to work on building the green infrastructure to capture stormwater runoff for the benefit of the entire community.

“I think it is important to take a step back and realize that when there is a big storm, someone is going to pay,” Lempert said. “And what this ordinance attempts to do is to make that more equitable.”

Watershed Executive Director Jim Waltman said he was pleased by the Council’s action, as well as their intention to consider a “Phase II” strategy to address flooding and water pollution caused by existing buildings and other hardscapes.

muddy water flowing out of a stormwater outfall

“We’re delighted by the Council’s action and applaud Princeton’s leadership on this vital issue,” Waltman said. “We hope Princeton will be an example for other towns and cities in New Jersey.”

For the past 11 months, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association has been advocating on this issue to help control the runoff and shape how Princeton neighborhoods evolve.

The new stormwater ordinance, introduced May 8 by the Princeton Council, will help address flooding problems caused by new construction. This ordinance, adopted June 12, has many of the recommendations that the Watershed made to Princeton.

A major source of water contamination is polluted stormwater runoff, which is tainted by the pesticides and fertilizers spread on our lawns, and petroleum and antifreeze spilled from our cars. Leaks from failing septic systems and broken sewer pipes, waste from pets, soap from washing cars, and road salt spreads on roads, driveways and sidewalks add to the problem.

When it rains, these pollutants wash over our lawns, driveways, parking lots and streets as “polluted stormwater runoff.” In most cases, the polluted runoff flows into storm drains, then through a series of underground pipes that carry the pollution directly to local streams. For most of us, these polluted streams are a source of our drinking water.

The Watershed Association is pleased to have worked with the Princeton Environmental Commission, the council, mayor and the engineering staff to foster greater understanding of the issues and by writing the ordinance that will reduce the pollution and flooding. For information on similar measures to help other localities do better, please contact Policy Director Mike Pisauro at for more information.