Sustainable Raritan River Initiative releases 2016 State of the Raritan Report

February 8, 2017

The Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, a joint program of Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, has announced the completion of a new report on the status of watershed health for the Raritan River.

State of the Raritan, Volume 1, provides an important assessment of overall water quality trends in the Raritan Basin to inform planning, policy, and decision-making at the federal, state and local levels. The report, prepared with input from its watershed partners, updates key indicators of water quality and watershed health for the Raritan Basin that were originally assessed in a report by the New Jersey Water Supply Authority, Raritan Basin: Portrait of a Watershed (2002).

This new assessment uses the same key indicators and updates the original data – most from 1986 and 1995 – with additional data from 2002, 2007 and 2012 in order to determine trends over the past 26 years and to identify data gaps for development of future more comprehensive assessments.

Eleven key indicators were assessed for this report including population; housing units; urban land use; impervious surface cover; forested, coastal and emergent wetlands; upland forest cover; prime agricultural land; groundwater recharge; fish and macroinvertebrate bioassessments; riparian area integrity; and known contaminant sites and groundwater contamination.

Overall comparison of this updated analysis with the 2002 report indicates trends were increasing for population, housing units, urban land use and impervious surface cover. An increasing trend for these indicators adds stress on water quality and supplies with potential negative impacts for the watershed. Trends were declining for all of the wetland land covers assessed as well as for upland forest, prime agricultural land, and groundwater recharge. Downward trends for these indicators suggests that the watershed is losing its natural filtering capacity with attendant negative impacts to water quality.

The bioassessment and riparian areas trends were mixed; there was not sufficient data to determine trends for the known contaminated sites and groundwater contamination indicators.

This report is the first in a series that will assess a broad array of metrics of watershed health for the Raritan Basin. The intent is to inform watershed management planning in concert with remediation, restoration and protection efforts at the federal, state and local levels.

A PDF of the report may be accessed at

For more information about the report, contact Sara Malone at Or visit to sign up for e-Newsletter & Announcements to stay informed of efforts to develop subsequent volumes of the State of the Raritan.

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