Addressing Polluted Runoff
The greatest source of water pollution in our region today is not factories or other industrial processes but the daily activities of ordinary residents: pesticides and fertilizers we spread on our lawns, petroleum and antifreeze that spill from our cars, leaks from failing septic systems and broken sewer pipes, waste from our pets, soap from washing our cars, road salt we spread on our driveways and sidewalks and other forms of “people pollution”.
When it rains, this witches brew of 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 subterranean pipes that carry the runoff directly to local streams. For most of us, these polluted streams are a source of our drinking water.
The problem is being exacerbated by the steady march of black top, concrete, roof tops and other hard surfaces that are impervious to water. With fewer unpaved areas to filter the polluted runoff and allow it to percolate down into the ground, there is more polluted runoff rushing into our streams and, consequently, more flooding.
These “impervious surfaces” also rob our groundwater; because less water is sinking into the ground, our ground water supplies are not replenished as much as they once were. The changing climate is an additional factor. Warmer weather results in more evaporation, more precipitation and more flooding.
New Jersey has experienced some of the most damaging and expensive flooding in the country. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, between January 1, 1978 an April 30, 2015, New Jersey has received $5,652,736,211 in payments from FEMA to compensate for flood damages.
How We’re Working with Towns to Address Flooding & Polluted Runoff:
With funding support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Watershed works with towns to adopt local environmental measures. Municipal stormwater ordinances require steps be taken to mitigate the stormwater impacts of new developments and redevelopments. Stream corridor ordinances prevent new development and clearing of native vegetation near streams that filters pollutants and slows the pace of runoff. Tree protection ordinances prevent the widescale clearing of trees, which perform a natural stormwater mitigation function.
With funding support from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Watershed is working in 16 central New Jersey towns to identify areas with large expanses of asphalt or concrete that can be reduced and/or retrofitted with strategies to capture polluted runoff, filter it with vegetation or other means, and allow it to percolate into the ground. Supplementing our towns’ existing infrastructure with a new kind of “green infrastructure” can help reduce pollution and flooding and improve the condition of our groundwater aquifers.
We work with the state legislature and state agencies to strengthen key environmental laws and regulations, including those implementing the clean water act, the flood hazard protection act and freshwater wetlands protection act. We fight against efforts to weaken these critical programs. We are also strong advocates for the state’s Green Acres program, which preserves key watershed lands, and Blue Acres program, which purchase flood prone properties.
Additionally, our River-Friendly program works one-on-one with residents, businesses, golf courses, and schools to improve land stewardship practices. Voluntary actions by individuals and institutions help to reduce pollution and prevent runoff at home and where you work. “River-Friendly” participants work to manage stormwater on their properties to reduce polluted runoff while sharing information, education resources, and best practices.
The Watershed Institute and NJ Spotlight are bringing experts to discuss stormwater utilities with elected officials and others involved in stormwater management.
Please urge your state Senator to vote for S1073, a bill scheduled for the Senate on Thursday, June 21 that will address the problem of water pollution and flooding.
In NJ, stormwater pollution accounts for 60 percent of the pollution that enters our waters. 40 other states have created and operate “stormwater utilities” to address this problem.
The Princeton Parklet opened Saturday, featuring live music, free ice cream and displays of rain barrels and green roofs by The Watershed Institute.
There is a lot that we don’t know about the Royce Brook! Our water quality assessments are usually based on data collected from StreamWatch volunteers and NJDEP staff, but in this case…
Stormwater utilities, a tool for managing flooding and water pollution, are gaining prominence in NJ as a better way to capture rain and fix old stormwater systems while benefiting homeowners and …
The Watershed recently installed floating wetlands at the Meadow Lakes retirement community in East Windsor and, if successful, this innovative approach to improving water quality may be expanded…
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A simple rain garden may look like a flower garden to the untrained eye, but these rain gardens serve the important role of absorbing 30% more water than the same size area of traditional lawn.
Join us for a panel discussion with leading climate and water experts from academia, government, and the non-profit sector from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Sept. 27 at the opening night reception for the “Politics of Water.”
Two grants recently announced by the state Department of Environmental Protection will bolster key efforts by the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association to monitor and improve water quality…
Princeton neighborhoods are safer from flooding and water intrusion resulting from new construction with Monday’s passage of the ordinance controlling polluted stormwater runoff.
Residents of Princeton are encouraged to attend the Princeton Council meeting on June 12 at 7pm to speak in favor of a stormwater ordinance, and urge their elected officials to vote for passage of the ordinance.
Princeton’s town council is poised to take an important step by considering a strong new measure to address flooding and polluted stormwater runoff—two of the region’s most pressing environmental challenges.
The new stormwater ordinance introduced by the Princeton Council will help address flooding problems and reduce the amount of pollution discharged into…
As we built our communities with more and more concrete, asphalt and buildings, the need to address stormwater arose. Our thinking on how to address stormwater has evolved over the years.