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Draft Revisions to Statewide Water Supply Plan

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released draft revisions to the NJ Statewide Water Supply Plan on May 1, 2017. They have scheduled three public meetings this summer on the draft proposal.

What is the Water Supply Master Plan?

The New Jersey Water Supply Management Act, approved in 1981, recognizes that water resources are public assets that the State holds in trust for its citizens and requires that the state create a Water Supply Master Plan. You can review the Act here.

This legislation entrusts the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with primary responsibility to ensure that New Jersey can cope with all foreseeable water needs and prescribes that DEP develop and periodically update the New Jersey Statewide Water Supply Plan.

This plan estimates the amount of water that was withdrawn from each watershed in an effort to determine if there was sufficient remaining water to support future water supply withdrawals, suitable water quality, protect and maintain aquatic resources, and defer saltwater intrusion. If a watershed had ample remaining water to maintain these uses, that watershed was concluded to be in “surplus.” If a watershed did not possess ample water to maintain these uses, that watershed was concluded to be in “deficit.”

New Jersey’s Water Supply Master Plan was last updated in 1996. Nearly 20 years ago, the plan showed that 8 of the 23 watersheds in the state would be at a deficit in 2010 which included the Mullica River, Maurice River and Cape May Coastal watersheds. The 1996 plan based its numbers on a population of 7.7 million people in 1990 growing to 8.9 million in 2040. According to Daniel Van Abs, a former DEP administrator and current Rutgers University professor, New Jersey hit 8.8 million in 2010 and population projections show that we will hit 10.4 million people within the next 15 years.


Draft Revisions Released May 2017

The DEP finally recently released a draft plan titled New Jersey Water Supply Plan 2017-2022 on May 1, 2017. It is the first revision to the 1996 Plan. By law it should have been released before 2003. With regards to protecting natural resources, this Plan is slightly better at recognizing the needs of our natural resources than the 1996 Plan. However, the Plan is really not a plan. It is more of a snapshot of existing conditions, with nebulous references to possible solutions. This is unfortunate since the Plan identifies a number of watersheds that are already stressed, or will be shortly.

The plan identifies that four (4) of the State's 20 watershed management areas as currently being stressed, with fifteen (15) more becoming stressed if authorized water permits are fully utilized.

However, the problem is actually much worse than noted for two reasons. First, watershed management areas are made up of a number of watersheds. Environmental impacts from ground water and surface water withdrawals occur at the watershed and subwatershed scale. Even at the watershed scale (which is approximately 65 square miles in the Pinelands) the plan identifies numerous watersheds that are stressed. Second, the fact that 15 watershed management areas will be stressed at fully authorized allocation, indicates that DEP has allocated water beyond what is sustainable. And when it comes to withdrawals from the shallow aquifer and streams in stressed watersheds, the environment is the big loser!

Currently Stressed Watershed Management Areas: According to the draft revisions the following watershed management areas are already stressed. You can see a map of the watershed management areas here.

  • WMA 7 - Arthur Kill
  • WMA 6 - Upper and Middle Passaic, Whippany and Rockaway
  • WMA 15 - Great Egg Harbor (Pinelands)
  • WMA 17 - Maurice, Salem and Cohansey (Pinelands)

Next Steps:

The DEP will hold three public meetings to collect feedback on the draft revisions. They will consider comments made at those meetings and any comments received by the close of business July 19, 2017 before formally adopting the plan. According to the DEP's press release they will consult with other organizations like the New Jersey Water Supply Advisory Council, the Highland Water Protection and Planning Council and the Pinelands Commission as well as with private and public water purveyors.

Public Meeting Dates:

  • Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 1 p.m. - NJ DEP Headquarters, 401 East State St, Trenton
  • Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 3 p.m. - Millburn Public Library, 200 Glen Ave., Millburn
  • Thursday, July 13, at 1 p.m. - Stockton University, 101 Vera King Farris Drive, Gallaway in the Board of Trustees Room at the Campus Center

What PPA is Doing:

PPA is in the process of assessing the plan and supporting documents. We are also collaborating with other organizations to strengthen the draft plan.


What You Can Do:

Here is what is needed in order of importance:

  1. Ask the DEP for some nighttime meetings. Currently there are only three (3) daytime meetings scheduled. This is guaranteed to limit any meaningful public participation since most people work during the day. Email watersupply@dep.nj.gov to make this request or use our Take Action Tool.
  2. Become informed....review the Plan! Take the time to understand the consequences to the environment alluded to in the Plan. This link will take you to the Plan and supporting documents. http://www.nj.gov/dep/watersupply/wsp.html
  3. Monitor our website and the Save the Source site for updates regarding the draft Plan. Sign up on our email list so we can keep you informed. We never share your email address with anyone ever.
  4. Plan to attend one or more of the scheduled meetings and speak up for the environment.
  5. Prepare written comments and submit them by email to watersupply@dep.nj.gov with "Draft Water Supply Plan Comments" in the subject line. You can also submit comments by writing to the following address:

NJDEP - Division of Water Supply & Geoscience
PO Box 420
Mail Code 401-04Q
Trenton, NJ 08625

If you have any questions, please contact Rich Bizub, Director for Water Programs at rich@pinelandsalliance.org or (609) 859-8860 ext. 116.

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