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Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 39


Additional  Protected Natural Resources Indicators

38 - Greenhouse Gas Releases

40 - Solid Waste Production

41 - Air Pollution

Drinking Water Quality

The percent of community drinking water systems with no violations of any microbiological and chemical contaminants: Little change

  Things to think about 

Access to potable water is the single biggest public health issue in the world.

Bottled water often costs more per gallon than gasoline or milk.

Drinking water is not regularly tested for all possible contaminants. Approximately 90 microbiological, radiological, and chemical contaminants are monitored in New Jersey’s drinking water supplies.

Treatment processes have become more rigorous, due in part to the fact that more chemicals and contaminants are now regulated than ever before.

Note: In the 1999 Sustainable State Project Report, the primary graph for this indicator showed the percentage of water systems testing for volatile organic compounds (17 contaminants) that met the drinking water standards. It is shown here as a secondary indicator. In this report, the primary graph shows compliance with all chemical and microbiological standards for drinking water.

Importance

In New Jersey we are blessed with abundant water supplies and drinking water systems that protect us from many of the chemicals, radiological contaminants, bacteria, viruses, and parasites that affect the health of people in many other parts of the world. However, regular testing of drinking water is necessary to protect the safety of our water supplies. This indicator tells us what percent of our community water supplies met all drinking water safety standards. Since 1995, the number of community water systems that met all safety standards has remained between 97 and 99 percent for microbiological standards and between 87 and 93 percent for chemical standards. The number of community water systems testing within allowable limits for volatile organic compounds has increased from a low of 78 percent in 1985 to 92 percent in 1998. Sources of contamination in drinking water supplies are industrial pollution of groundwater, urban and agricultural runoff, and industrial discharges into surface water supplies.

Economic

In communities with poor water quality, property values fall and economic potential declines. The most cost-effective way to avoid these losses is through prevention of pollution. Once a water supply is contaminated, treatment costs can easily run into the millions of dollars. Paying for these treatment costs can be especially difficult for communities with small water systems.

Environmental

Water supplies that do not meet safety standards for people may also contain chemicals that can harm ecosystems and sensitive wildlife such as frogs, whose populations have declined substantially in recent years. Clean water and a pollution-free environment are as vital to our ecosystems as they are to our health.

Social

A safe and stable water supply is a foundation for any civilization and is important to New Jersey’s communities. Residents of many New Jersey towns have concerns about the health of their water systems and are seeking new ways to learn about the quality of their drinking water. Access to a healthy water supply is essential to the well-being of our communities.

Knowledge Gaps

The contaminants measured here are only a portion of the known drinking water contaminants suspected to be detrimental to human health. Research is currently underway to identify additional contaminants of importance in drinking water supplies. The data do not include the test results from more than 4,000 non-community water systems in New Jersey. Noncommunity water systems do not serve permanent residents and include office buildings and highway rest stops.

Data Source: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: May 1, 2007

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