Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [Rutgers Environmental Stewards]

South Branch Watershed Association

Host Agency Info:

Name: South Branch Watershed Association

Address: Lechner House, 41 Lilac Drive, Flemington, NJ08822

Phone: 908-782-0422

Supervisor Name: Nicole Rahman

E-mail of supervisor:

Nature of Host Agency (circle): Non-profit

Project Description: Please include anticipated outcomes or accomplishments and who benefits.


South Branch Aquifer Study

The South Branch Watershed Association has been collecting data on groundwater contaminants in the watershed for a number of years. This project involves inputting this data into a spreadsheet format, analyzing the data to identify any trends as they relate to various contaminants and preparing a summary report on the data and trend analysis.

The data to be analyzed was collected over the past five years. Some of the data has already been inputted. The Association collects this data through its private well testing program. Many of the watershed’s residents rely on private wells, and therefore the aquifer, for their drinking water. The US EPA recommends that private well owners have their well water tested annually. In 2004, more than 500 individual well owners in the watershed had their well water tested for various contaminants through the Association’s well testing program. Most test were done for the purpose of determining whether the water was free from harmful bacteria or contained nitrates in excess of acceptable levels. A number of tests were done for other contaminants such as metals, arsenic, VOC’s and pesticides.

Analysis of the collected data may lead to the discovery of trends, which in turn may prove to be useful in identifying environmental issues that extend beyond the impact caused to any particular well. For example, a grouping of high coliform or nitrate levels may indicate failing septic systems or improper land management. Identification of these potential issues can help with the planning of solutions to remedy the situation. Even tests that show pristine aquifers are useful in assisting planning efforts to protect these valuable resources from future contamination. For example, the septic density requirements established by the new NJ DEP Highlands Regulations are based on nitrate dilution modeling and are intended to protect the pristine aquifers that exist in the upland forests of the Highlands Preservation Area. It was necessary to first collect aquifer nitrate data (through well tests) in order for DEP to run the nitrate dilution model and arrive at an acceptable density standard that would protect the resource.

A number of the wells tested through the Association’s program are located in the Highlands region. The Association has been discussing ways in which the Highlands Council can use the Association’s well testing data to assist the Council’s work on creating the regional master plan. This project will be useful for that purpose. It is intended that the spreadsheet and the summary analysis and report will be shared with the Council’s staff to assist them with their work in this part of the Highlands region. This project will also assist the Association and the communities in the watershed by identifying potential issues and trends with regard to wells and the groundwater relied upon by the watershed residents.

Nature of anticipated impact (circle all that apply): Social, Economic, Environmental (all apply)

Evaluation Plan:

Evaluation of the project will be based upon the ability of the steward to successfully input all data, analyze the data and prepare a basic summary report of the data and any trends that may be identified.

Learning Objectives in plan (If any):

The steward will learn about aquifers and how groundwater and surface water interact; how land use planning and land management affect well and aquifer protection; and the sources and effects of various contaminants on aquifers and drinking water supplies. These issues have implications on social, economic and environmental levels. The socially responsible manner in which people live affects themselves, others and the greater environment. Studies like these help society plan to minimize long-term impacts to the environment and to sustain natural resources so they are available for future generations. Failure to adequately protect these resources affects the quality of life, both human and animal, and presents economic challenges as aquifers are depleted and as more treatment is required to make water safe for human consumption.