SaveH2ONJ.org is a campaign to highlight the importance of regional planning and water supply protection. Learn more about the organizations behind the campaign.
SaveH2ONJ.org was started by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and the New Jersey Highlands Coalition to draw attention to the importance of regional planning in protecting our state’s water supply. This initiative has grown to include the American Littoral Society, the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. It is more important than ever that the state takes concrete steps to protect water quality and water supply.
One of our first campaign efforts was the creation of a billboard located next to New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) offices in Trenton. The first billboard featured Eileen Swan, former director of the New Jersey Highlands Council who was released from the council against the objections of many who support Highlands protection.
What is the Water Supply Master Plan and Why Does it Matter?
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This plan estimates the amount of water that was withdrawn from each watershed in an effort to determine if there was sufficient remaining water to support future water supply withdrawals, suitable water quality,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.
Pinelands Preservation Alliance, New Jersey Highlands Coalition, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commission, and American Littoral Society joined together as the Save H20 NJ Coalition to increase public awareness about the lack of water supply planning, to put pressure on the state to release the statewide water supply master plan, and to create a state-wide campaign that engages diverse groups and individuals to share in the fight to protect our water resources.
The most recent New Jersey Statewide Water Supply Plan has been drafted, but has not yet been formally released. To more accurately identify existing and potential water supply concerns, this document evaluated the 151 smaller watersheds of the state, employed a more comprehensive quantification of demand and the nature of the demand, and used a more precise analytical tool to estimate the status of these watersheds.
New Jersey’s water supply and water quality are becoming increasingly threatened by consumption and inappropriate development. Although the state’s regulations can ensure sufficient water supply for both human use and ecological systems, New Jersey is lacking an updated water supply plan that provides information about water availability in each of the 23 major watersheds in the state. The DEP must release the Statewide Water Supply Plan.